PORTSMOUTH — Eugene Collins doesn’t seem to get too high or too low during basketball games, and definitely screams even less.
Instead, what Collins does besides calms the proverbial waters is win.
And, at his alma mater of Portsmouth High School on Tuesday night — inside PHS’ Trojan Arena — Collins captured his 169th career coaching victory, making him the second winningest coach in the decorated and proud history of tradition-rich Trojan boys basketball.
His Trojans, trailing for just two minutes in the second quarter and shooting a sizzling 56-percent for the entire game with 10 made three-pointers, triumphed 72-61 over the visiting Coal Grove Hornets in an Ohio Valley Conference contest.
With the victory, the Trojans bounced back nicely from a heartbreaking 62-61 OVC loss at Ironton on Friday night — and improved to 6-7 and 3-4 in the league.
But Tuesday’s tilt was all about the 11-year head coach Collins, who entered against the Hornets tied with Richard “Red” Hopkins with 168 career wins —tied for the second-most all-time on the career coaching wins list at Portsmouth.
Collins now sports a record of 169-87 at PHS, as Hopkins — who coached the Trojans for 11 years from 1926 thru 1936 — had a record of 168-58.
Collins — widely respected amongst coaching peers, players and fans alike — especially those in Southeastern Ohio, commented on his Trojan tenure and what the honor means.
“This is special. To not only play here, but then become the head coach here. We’re in the top-10 in all-time wins in the state. I have to give a ton of credit to all my players, former staff, current coaches, the administration…everybody has been really good to me. I’ve just been blessed and fortunate to ride this wave,” he said. “It hasn’t felt like 11 years, but time has been flying by.”
Indeed, it doesn’t feel like a second decade of coaching has started for Collins, but the resume from his first 10 years is quite impressive.
His Trojans have appeared in three regional championship games, which include back-to-back Division III state tournament berths in 2011 and 2012.
At the league level, Portsmouth won two Southeastern Ohio Athletic League titles in 2012 and 2014, followed by an OVC championship in 2015.
He has been the SEOAL and OVC Coach of the Year, the Southeast District Division III Coach of the Year as bestowed upon by the Associated Press, and the Division III Ohio Coach of the Year in 2012.
Speaking of 2012, he is the last Southeast District boys coach to have won a state semifinal, as his Trojans topped Ottawa-Glandorf 74-66.
Collins is one of four Trojan coaches to lead Portsmouth to the state tournament more than once, as the previous three were Red Hopkins (1926, 1927, 1929, 1931 and 1934), Richard “Dick” Hopkins (1978 and 1980) and Joe Suboticki (1988 and 1990).
The all-time winningest coach in Portsmouth history remains George Heller, who went 224-137 from 1952 to 1968.
If Collins coaches long enough, and if the Trojans win of course, it is likely he will pass Heller —as only 55 victories separate the two as of this morning.
But Collins’ chief concern on Tuesday night was getting his 2020 Trojans back on the winning track, as Portsmouth pushed out to a 16-8 early advantage —before the Hornets hit back behind Evan Gannon’s three first-half three-pointers and went on a 15-3 run over a span of six minutes.
Coal Grove claimed its lead at 20-19 on a Peyton Smith drive at the 4:45 mark of the second quarter, as Gannon garnered his final trifecta for a four-point bulge (23-19) just 25 seconds later.
But the Trojans’ Amare Johnson drained two treys just 45 seconds apart for the 25-25 tie, sandwiched around Smith scoring on a rebound putback.
That’s when Matthew Fraulini caught fire for Portsmouth, as his second-stanza three-ball boosted the Trojans back in front for good at 28-25.
After two first-quarter deuces, he dropped in another in the second to make it a five-point (30-25) lead, as Drew Roe then scored with 90 seconds left in the period for another advantage (32-25) of at least six.
Portsmouth shot the ball well —56-percent for the game on 28-of-50.
It canned 10-of-21 three-balls for 48-percent, and attacked the basket well for high-percentage shots —going 18-of-29 for a fiery 62-percent from inside the arc, including 11-of-15 (73-percent) in the opening half.
“It’s good to see things that you work on in practice carry over into the game. We’ve been working on pitching it up and getting shots on the wing. Matt (Fraulini) hit some threes. We’ve been working on swinging it to the trailer and getting some trail threes with Donavon Carr,” said Collins. “It was good to see the last couple of days of practice pay off like that. We’ve been working a lot lately on shooting, and guys stepped up and made shots.”
Did they ever — especially in the second half after those three makes on a dozen attempts in the first.
Three Hornet hoops got the guests to within 34-33, but the Trojans — with three threes by Fraulini and one from Roe — doubled up the Hornets 20-10 over the final 5:13 of the third quarter.
In the fourth frame, Carr dialed in twice from long distance, as Johnson — with Portsmouth leading 60-51 and with 4:15 remaining — drilled his third three to make it a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
The Trojans then finished off Coal Grove with 4-of-6 free throws in the final 1:23, as Johnson split a pair for his 14th and final point —while Fraulini went 3-of-4 to cap his team-high pouring in of 23.
Fraulini’s 23 included four deuces and four treys, as Johnson (14 points), Roe (13 points) and Carr (12) closely followed suit.
All three totaled five field goals apiece, as Miles Shipp scored three baskets with one apiece from Dariyonne Bryant (first quarter) and Chris Duff (third quarter).
The Trojans, aside from the five twos and five threes from Gannon towards a game-high 25 points, defended well on the perimeter — as Coal Grove shot just 5-of-22 from three-point range.
“Our gameplan was to make sure we didn’t give their shooters good looks,” said Collins. “For the most part, we did pretty good except for Gannon.”
Trevor Carey — on six field goals and two made free throws — chipped in 14 points, while Smith and Jarren Hicks added eight points apiece on three field goals and two made foul shots.
The Hornets, which had won five consecutive over the Trojans, fell to 3-9 — and to 2-5 in the OVC.
The triumph by the Trojans was important for the young club’s confidence, and to inch closer to the .500 mark while climbing the ladder of the OVC standings.
It’s a two-horse race right now with league-leader Fairland and second-place Chesapeake, but Portsmouth desires to make it a three-way or even four-way dance, as South Point and Ironton are in the middle mix as well.
“It’s a great win for our kids. I am so proud of them,” said Collins. “To get a win and get to 3-4 in the league, we kind of went from the bottom of the league to the middle of the league. It was a great opportunity for us. I think tonight we finished the game, whereas at Ironton we just didn’t close it out. We took strides tonight at getting better at finishing.”
And, Collins took a personal stride into Portsmouth boys basketball history, although his focus following Tuesday night’s win was indeed on the here and now.
Plus…next month’s tournament trek.
“We’re having fun and we’re getting better every game. We’re looking to be humming on all cylinders come February,” he said.
Information from www.PortsmouthBasketball.net was used in this report.
* * *
Coal Grove 11 16 16 18 — 61
Portsmouth 16 16 22 18— 72
COAL GROVE 61 (3-9, 2-5 OVC)
Perry Kingery 2 0-0 4, Cory Borders 0 0-0 0, Evan Gannon 10 0-0 25, Peyton Smith 3 2-4 8, Trevor Hankins 0 0-0 0, Luke Ferguson 0 0-0 0, Maliachi Wheeler 1 0-0 2, Jarren Hicks 3 2-2 8, Ethan Short 0 0-0 0, Trevor Carey 6 2-6 14; TOTALS 25 6-12 61; Three-point goals: 5 (Evan Gannon 5)
PORTSMOUTH 72 (6-7, 3-4 OVC)
Amare Johnson 5 1-2 14, Matthew Fraulini 8 3-4 23, Dariyonne Bryant 1 0-0 2, Drew Roe 5 2-4 13, Jesse Dixon 0 0-0 0, Miles Shipp 3 0-0 6, Chris Duff 1 0-0 2, Donavon Carr 5 0-1 12; TOTALS 28 6-11 72; Three-point goals: 10 (Matthew Fraulini 4, Amare Johnson 3, Donavon Carr 2, Drew Roe 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved