WEST PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth West Senators will go into the holiday season with a hard-fought victory over one of their biggest rivals.
While the score may seem to indicate an easy victory for the Senators, it was anything but as both teams came into Saturday’s game ready to play.
It was an intense game from the tip as neither team gave an inch and both teams accepted the challenge of meeting their rival’s level of intensity.
But in the end, the Senators (4-3) came out on top by a 61-45 final.
Both teams came out of the gate at a quick pace as they each pushed the ball up the court in transition.
West took advantage of the opportunities they were given as senior Jesse Johnson hit two big 3-pointers that gave the Senators an early lead.
West coach Bill Hafer was glad to see his team get those big 3’s early and knew they set the tone for his team going forward.
“Shooting is contagious. A couple shots fall, guys get confident, other shots fall for us. For whatever reason, our first shot of the game has been big for us all season,” he said. “If that first shot goes in, you know we are OK, but if it bounces out, you know we could have some issues.”
The shots continued to fall for West as it enjoyed an early 15-6 lead going into the second quarter.
The Trojans (4-3), however, mounted a comeback as they continued to throw the ball into the post and let their big men go to work.
Myles Shipp imposed his will on the Senators’ defense with bucket after bucket.
Portsmouth coach Eugene Collins was happy to see the effort from his big players.
“The effort was there from Myles all night long. I thought Amare Johnson gave us great effort all night, and then we got effort in spots from other guys,” he said. “At this point in time, we’re not good enough to not get great effort from everyone and as a group, we have to do better at getting collective effort from everyone.”
But after Shipp made his presence known, the Senators’ defense began to lockdown Portsmouth’s offense.
“Defensively, we are pretty good and we can defend pretty well,” Hafer said. “We got some good senior leadership tonight from Jesse Johnson, and Dylan Bradford played another fantastic game … so did Josh Berry. We are going to need that from them all season long.”
Johnson drained a few more 3’s, extending the Senators’ lead to 23-9.
“We executed exactly what we wanted to do,” Hafer said. “Jesse Johnson was humongous for us hitting those shots. Honestly we have been playing like this all year. It’s just that the shots haven’t really fallen for us. When the shots fall, we are a pretty dangerous team.”
The Senators went into halftime with a comfortable 29-18 lead.
The second half of the game began much like the first with both teams rested and looking to push the ball.
The Trojans got stellar defensive play from freshman point guard Amare Johnson, who was all over the court, jumping in passing lanes and poking the ball out at every opportunity.
“He is a high-motor kid and that’s why we have him starting as a freshman,” Collins said. “He loves to defend and he is great at that. He accepted the challenge tonight. Bradford wasn’t his assignment but we had to put him on Bradford quickly. It was great effort by him.”
However, the early lead proved to be too much for the Trojans to overcome .
Johnson stayed scorching hot with another 3 to put West up 44-28 going into the fourth.
West then slowed the game down and grinded out a win against the Trojans in the fourth.
“We preached every time out we are the ones up here. We don’t need to go quick, we don’t need to take a risky shot,” Hafer said. “Our seniors stepped up and everyone that went to the line converted. That helped them not give Portsmouth a chance to get back into it.”
Danny Lattimore led the Trojans with 14 points while Matthew Fraulini had nine. MyQuel McKinley and Shipp also chipped in with eight points apiece.
For the Senators, Johnson led the way with a game-high 22 points while Bradford followed with 16.