PORTSMOUTH — Gene Collins, admitting as much on Saturday night, couldn’t remember what winning felt like.
His Portsmouth Trojans had lost six consecutive contests, a January swoon that soon spilled over into the opening week of February — and the hosts trailed the Chesapeake Panthers 29-21 only a possession into the second half.
That’s when the Trojans’ turnaround began, and hopefully for Collins and company, it can carry over for the remainder of the regular season.
By outscoring Chesapeake 39-29 over the final 15 minutes and 18 seconds, and as the Trojans’ attack on the basket was underway, Portsmouth pushed past —and held on — for a 60-57 Ohio Valley Conference victory inside Trojan Arena.
After an 8-8 tie and a 26-21 halftime deficit which featured 11 first-half lead changes, Portsmouth put it together in the second half — and snapped the six-game losing streak while improving to 6-8.
The Trojans are now 4-6 in the OVC, as they split the season series against the Panthers —which fell to 7-9 and 4-8.
“It’s a big relief, really. It feels like a year since we have won,” said Collins, the veteran PHS coach. “To come home and get a win feels really good. Just proud of the kids tonight. We got great effort up and down the bench. Guys fought back and we’re tickled to death to get a win.”
The Trojans, trailing 29-21 after Chesapeake’s Caleb Schneider nailed a three-pointer off the wing only 25 seconds into the third quarter, took over from there —and took the lead four minutes later off an 11-2 run.
Portsmouth then regained the lead at 49-48 with 4:10 remaining, but once again got to the rim for two-point baskets —before Drew Roe recorded 3-of-4 free throws in the final 8.7 seconds to seal it.
Those were Portsmouth’s only freebies for the entire fourth quarter, as its other five for the game occurred in the third.
Only Roe in the fourth following Donovan Carr in the second made three-point goals, as the other 24 field goals the Trojans tallied were of the two-point variety.
The Trojans took the ball to the rack, drove the lane, and often got the Panthers into foul trouble.
“Most of our stuff tonight was at the bucket. We took what they gave us,” said Collins. “They pressed, we threw it over the top and finished at the bucket. Whether we threw it in the post and finished or we drove it inside and finished. We didn’t settle for a lot of perimeter shots. And I think that was a reflection of the lineup we played at this particular time. Most of those guys are more comfortable playing with their back to the basket or driving.”
Carr revved up the Trojans’ engine, scoring nine field goals and a free throw off an old-fashioned third-quarter three-point play, for a team-high 20 points — as Dariyonne Bryant racked up five field goals and 2-of-4 third-frame free throws towards 12.
Carr muscled for 11 of Portsmouth’s 13 second-period points, and kept the Trojans in touch with Chesapeake —as the halftime margin was its largest to that point.
Roe recorded 10 points as he also tossed in two third-period deuces, while Miles Shipp scored 10 points as well —on five baskets.
Devin Lattimore, a freshman, made a major impact with eight second-half points on four field goals.
“We’ve been trying to figure out how to work him (Lattimore) in. Tonight we just decided to commit to playing him. Then when Donovan Carr got in foul trouble, we went to him,” said Collins. “He’s a long, lanky, left-handed tough kid to guard and who can move and play multiple positions. He had four key buckets for us tonight.”
Despite only making 2-of-10 three-point attempts and turning the ball over 23 times, Portsmouth shot a sizzling 53-percent from the field on 26-of-49.
They also outrebounded the Panthers 41-24.
But Collins said success on offense began with a stop on defense.
Chesapeake shot 33-percent on 19-of-57, but was just 7-of-23 from beyond the arc.
Levi Blankenship bagged five three-point goals for the Panthers for a game-high 22, but four of those came in the first half —as his last wasn’t until the final stanza.
Schneider scored 13 and Ben Bragg buried a dozen to follow, as both collected four field goals and four made free throws apiece.
“We started out playing zone the first half, but we switched to man-to-man the second half. One adjustment we made from playing them the first time was fighting through all the screens. This time, we switched on everything, which covered up their shooters. We were able to stay in front of them for the most part,” said the coach. “We made them shoot tough shots, and we rebounded pretty well for us.”
Speaking of rebounding, the hope is that the Trojans have rebounded —with Saturday’s second half —from their six-game skid.
Once they gained the 32-31 edge, they only briefly gave it back once — and fended off the Panthers for the final 4:10.
“This is huge for our kids’ morale. The league (OVC) is very tough. It’s a tough league where everybody beats everybody,” said Collins. “It’s important for us to get a win and finish out the year strong.”
Chesapeake 8 18 12 19 — 57
Portsmouth 8 13 19 20— 60
CHESAPEAKE 57 (7-9, 4-8 OVC)
Caleb Schneider 4 4-6 13, Nathan Cox 1 0-0 2, Levi Blankenship 7 3-3 22, Dannie Maynard 2 1-3 6, Ben Bragg 4 4-5 12, Jacob Lemley 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 19 12-17 57; Three-point field goals: 7 (Levi Blankenship 5, Caleb Schneider and Dannie Maynard 1 apiece)
PORTSMOUTH 60 (6-8, 4-6 OVC)
Amare Johnson 0 0-0 0, Drew Roe 3 3-4 10, Dariyonne Bryant 5 2-4 12, Daewin Spence 0 0-0 0, Donovan Carr 9 1-1 20, Michael Duncan 0 0-0 0, Miles Shipp 5 0-0 10, Devin Lattimore 4 0-0 8, Tyler Duncan 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 26 6-9 60; Three-point field goals: 2 (Drew Roe and Donovan Carr 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved