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Senior captain guard Garrett Johnson and the Morgan boys’ basketball team dropped a 61-41 decision to Old Lyme in the Division V State Tournament semifinals on March 11. (Photo by Catherine Avalone/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain guard Chris Nuzzo and the Huskies completed their season with a record of 17-8 after losing to Old Lyme in the Division V semis last week. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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The Morgan boys’ basketball team saw its exciting postseason ride come to an end when the Huskies took a defeat in the quarterfinals of the Division V State Tournament last week. After winning its first two games in the tourney, Morgan was eliminated with a 61-41 loss against Shoreline Conference foe Old Lyme on March 11. The Huskies finished their year with an impressive record of 17-8, marking a 13-win improvement from last season.
The 6th-seeded Huskies traveled to Old Lyme to square off against the Wildcats in Division V quarterfinal matchup. Morgan had defeated Old Lyme by a point during the regular season and looked forward to facing the 3rd-seeded Wildcats again with a semifinal berth on the line. Morgan scored the first six points of the game, but Old Lyme responded with an 11-0 run, and led the rest of the way.
“After the timeout, they got balanced and organized. It was a case where, ultimately, they had the skills and executed when they needed to,” Head Coach Frank Rossi said of Old Lyme. “We weren’t surprised by anything they showed us. We just got out hot and got too excited. We made a couple of mistakes early, and it gave them momentum.”
Old Lyme held an 18-11 advantage after the first quarter and increased its lead to 35-16 at halftime. Morgan was unable to make up the deficit in the second half as Old Lyme advanced to the semis with the 20-point victory.
“They carried that first quarter momentum into the second quarter, and they just played off that. At that point, we didn’t execute defensively, but it wasn’t for lack of effort,” Coach Rossi said. “Old Lyme played exceptionally well. When they needed to make plays, they did. We did our best to prepare and take away their strengths, and they played like a championship-caliber team. They took away our catch-and-shoots. It’s a lot of credit to Old Lyme’s perimeter defense.”
Senior captain guard Garrett Johnson, who earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors this season, scored 17 points for Morgan in the loss. Coach Rossi said that Johnson was one of the biggest contributors to the Huskies’ success this year.
“Garrett did everything that we could have asked them to do. He carried us in the state tourney,” said Rossi. “He’s a senior who wasn’t ready for his career to end. He did everything he could to lift us.”
Sophomore center Robbie Zirlis added 12 points for the Huskies against Old Lyme. Zirlis was an anchor in the paint for Morgan throughout the season.
“Robbie played one of his best games of the year,” said Rossi. “He had to match up with Aeden Using, who’s an All-State caliber player, and Robbie did a nice job on both ends, playing aggressive and attacking him.”
Senior captain forward Chris Nuzzo scored seven points for the Huskies on the night. Nuzzo garnered All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention this season.
Coach Rossi was impressed by the way his athletes took the defeat. Even though the Huskies wanted to move on, they wished Old Lyme the best of luck going forward in the tournament. The Wildcats ultimately made it to the final, where they lost to top-seeded Innovation.
“I thought our kids handled themselves well. It’s tough losing any game, but our kids handled the loss very well,” he said. “Obviously, they were saddened. It was great to see them shaking hands and wishing them well. I was proud of how our kids handled themselves.”
Coach Rossi knows that Morgan took a big step in the right direction during the 2018-’19 season. With their continued hard work, Rossi believes that the Huskies will continue trending upward.
“Knowing where we were last year, it was wonderful to see the support and the general vibe around the team late in the year. Now, the kids have to want to get back there next year and beyond,” said Rossi. “Looking forward, the program has a lot of potential. We have room to grow and develop. I’m hoping what we did is contagious.”
From the Sidelines
The Morgan boys’ basketball squad’s varsity roster features senior captains AJ Fritz, Garrett Johnson, and Chris Nuzzo; seniors Lee Broderick, John Murray, and JP Nye; juniors Nicolas Colebank and Jonathan Fiorillo; and sophomores Cameron Carlson, Jason Cohen, Zach Johnson, Gavin Krott, and Robbie Zirlis.
Frank Rossi finished his first season as the head coach for Morgan boys’ hoops. Rossi’s coaching staff included assistant coach Jordan Bean and JV coach Ryan Florentine
During the regular season, Morgan posted two victories against Coginchaug (50-45 and 46-44), North Branford (83-43 and 65-38), and Haddam-Killingworth (54-52 and 64-45) to go with one win apiece versus Portland (64-40), East Hampton (55-43), Branford (78-60), Hale-Ray (51-37), Amistad (50-47), Westbrook (63-35), Tourtellotte (76-41), and Old Lyme (57-56). The Huskies also took two defeats versus Valley Regional (57-51 and 43-41) and Cromwell (68-44 and 80-56), as well as one loss against both Platt (57-54) and Old Saybrook (37-23).
In the Shoreline Conference Tournament, No. 5 seed Morgan defeated 4th-seeded Old Saybrook by a 40-38 score in the quarterfinals, before taking a 48-28 loss to top-seeded Cromwell in the semis.
Earlier the Division V State Tournament, Huskies notched a 56-54 win over No. 27 seed Haddam-Killingworth in the first round, followed by a 45-42 victory versus No. 22 Terryville in a second-round matchup.
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