WHEELERSBURG – In their last five meetings, Wheelersburg and Portsmouth have played close contests.
The closest came during the ‘15-16 and ‘16-17 seasons in which the Trojans prevailed over the Pirates by one-point (56-55) and two points (77-75) respectively.
Ahead of Saturday’s meeting , the largest result in the last five for each side was an 18-point Portsmouth win in the ‘14-15 season and last year’s 70-57 road win for Wheelersburg en route to their 22-0 regular season.
Saturday’s result between the two storied programs was quite far from any of those.
In their 69-32 win over the visiting Trojans (6-9, 3-5 OVC), it was all Pirates (10-2, 7-1 SOC II), all game, right from the beginning.
“Really pleased with the way we guarded,” Wheelersburg coach Steven Ater said following the win. “The guys out there to start the game really helped us get going. Took away driving lanes, contested their threes. They’ve got so many talented guys offensively that doing that isn’t the easiest thing. Thought we did a good job of limiting their second shots early on which allowed us to get out in transition for some easy baskets.”
Slow seems apropos for Portsmouth’s start after managing just one first quarter field goal – a Donavon Carr make with 1:05 remaining in the first – while trailing Wheelersburg 14-3 after one.
Junior Matthew Miller and sophomore Eli Swords each scored five first quarter points apiece as the Pirates held an 11-point advantage.
Wheelersburg would take a 29-15 lead into the halftime locker room after winning the second quarter 15-12. Junior J.J Truitt scored nine of his game-high 16 points in the first half while Swords entered halftime with eight.
Miller, Truitt, and Swords combined to score 18 of the Pirates’ 25 third quarter points as Ater’s group would claim the period 25-6 to hold a 54-21 lead after three.
“The third quarter stretch is really how we want to play,” Ater said. “We got stops, we threw the ball ahead in the offense, the ball moved to find extra guys. We’ve struggled to find those open shots at times, forcing passes when we didn’t need to.”
Truitt’s game-high 16, Swords’ 13 in his second-career start, and Miller’s 13 combined to total 42 of the Pirates’ 69 points in their 37-point decision. The trio also combined to make seven threes while Wheelersburg as a team sunk eight long-balls.
“Matthew (Miller) was really unselfish tonight,” Ater said. “He was getting pressured, face-guarded, and he was willing to give up the ball to let other guys initiate the offense. Some nights the ball’s going to run through our point guard, some nights it’ll be other guys moving the offense through. J.J. can be one of the best initiators in the area, Carter’s a threat on the inside, Eli’s coming along, shooting the basketball well and finishing in transition.”
The Pirates non-starters would do the heavy lifting in the fourth as Ater’s bench combined to score 21 points of the team’s 69 points.
“Kenny (Sanderlin) coming off the bench played really well and was able to score at the rim,” Ater said of his bench. “Aaron (Jolly) gives us that lift off the bench. And I thought Gage’s (Adkins) defense tonight was really crucial, spent a lot of time guarding (Matthew) Fraulini which is one of the area’s best scorers.”
Portsmouth was led in scoring by senior Matthew Fraulini who scored a team-high eight points.
Saturday’s win was Wheelersburg’s second-straight (Tuesday versus South Webster) after dropping two-out-of-three games a week ago with both losses – Waverly and Ironton – coming at home.
Rather than panic after last week’s disappoint results, the No. 8 ranked Pirates worked on what it would take to get back to their winning ways with the back half of their schedule quickly on the horizon.
After a week in which they’ve won each of their two games by their largest margin of victory (64 points) in any two-game span this season, it’s safe to say their approach on their corrected course was the right one.
“It’s the phrase, ‘Tough times don’t last, tough people do’,” Ater said. “We realized we had some flaws, and we got exposed in those flaws. That’s what good competition will do to you. They (players) were willing to accept criticism, accept coaching to fix those areas where we had flaws, and I thought we worked those well enough that we were able to come in and pull away and have a big win tonight.”
Ater’s group will get back into league play on Tuesday when they will host Valley and on Friday when they travel to West. Both the Pirates and the Lady Pirates will make the short trek across the Jesse Stuart Bridge on Saturday for a girls-boys JV-varsity double-header versus the Greenup County (Ky.) Musketeers.
“Build off it, don’t be comfortable with this,” Ater said of his message to his team. “Realize that everyone is going to try and knock you off in the league. We’re still in a position to control our destiny in the league, but it’s a long run back through it.”
Portsmouth will travel to Chesapeake on Tuesday and Fairland on Friday to continue the back-half of their Ohio Valley Conference schedule.
Portsmouth 3 12 6 11 – 32
Wheelersburg 14 15 25 15 – 69
Portsmouth 32 (6-9, 3-5 OVC)
Amare Johnson 1 0-0 3, Matthew Fraulini 3 0-0 8, Dariyonne Bryant 2 0-0 4, Jack Workman 0 0-0 0, Drew Roe 2 0-0 4, Jesse Dixon 0 0-0 0, Miles Shipp 2 0-2 4, Chris Duff 1 0-0 2, Jaylind Thomas 1 0-0 2, Donavon Carr 1 1-2 3, Tanner Cantrell 1 0-0 2, Trevor Pope 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 14 1-4 32; Three-point field goals: 3 (Fraulini 2, Johnson 1)
Wheelersburg 69 (10-2, 7-1 SOC II)
Aaron Jolly 1 2-2 5, Josh Clark 0 0-0 0, Matthew Miller 5 2-3 13, Eli Swords 4 2-6 13, Aaron Masters 0 0-0 0, Jonah Lawson 0 2-2 2, Carter McCorkle 2 2-4 6, J.J. Truitt 5 3-4 16, Gage Adkins 1 0-0 2, Mason Montgomery 0 0-0 0, Brayden Wilson 0 0-0 0, Core Maxie 2 0-0 4, Kenny Sanderlin 4 0-0 8; TOTALS: 23 13-21 69; Three-point field goals: 8 (Swords, Truitt 3 apiece, Jolly, Miller 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved