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Senior captain Jon Fiorillo and the Morgan boys’ basketball team posted 16 wins this year and made trips to the Shoreline Conference and Division V State Tournaments. Fiorillo helped turn the program around during his four years with the squad. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Junior Zach Johnson was one of the Huskies’ top scoring threats this season and earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors as a result. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Junior Robbie Zirlis was one of the top big men in the Shoreline Conference this season and was named to the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Alex Fratamico showed himself to be a tough cover for any defense this season, especially in the Shoreline Conference Tournament. (Photo by Susan Lambert/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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Last year, the Morgan boys’ basketball team surprised a lot of people by posting a 17-win season, marking a 13-win improvement from the previous campaign. This year, the Huskies caught the Shoreline Conference off-guard once again after returning just two starters. Head Coach Frank Rossi’s squad finished the year with an overall record of 16-8, advanced to the Shoreline Conference final, and then won its only game in the Division V State Tournament.
Early on, the Huskies were learning how their players fit together, yet they earned seven wins during the first half of the campaign. Morgan wound up qualifying for states by posting a 54-48 victory against Westbrook on Jan. 24.
Following the regular season, Morgan entered Shorelines as the No. 3 seed and beat No. 6 seed Hale-Ray by an 82-73 score in the quarterfinals. Then in the semis, the Huskies stunned No. 2 seed Valley Regional with a 70-62 overtime victory after having lost both matchups to the Warriors during the regular season. Morgan went on to take a 72-50 loss to top-seeded Old Lyme in the Shoreline final.
In states, 9th-seeded Morgan claimed a 65-52 win over No. 24 seed Parish Hill in the first round before the tournament was canceled due to concerns of the spread of COVID-19. The Huskies were slated to take on No. 8 seed Montville in a second-round matchup.
Coach Rossi feels proud of his squad for what it accomplished this year. Rossi believes that his program is in a solid place because of the work that his players put in the last two seasons.
“The bottom line is that we accomplished a lot of goals this year. We had a young team coming back after we won 17 games last year. We didn’t have much of an identity at the beginning of the year, but our big-picture goals were met,” said Rossi. “We got a home game in Shorelines and states. We wanted to get those games at our gym. Shorelines was an amazing experience. We got a chance to play in the state tournament, and we won our only game. That’s all we could do.”
The Huskies had a huge conference tournament, and performed above expectations by reaching the final and playing Old Lyme tough for most of the game. Morgan’s high point of the season had to be the overtime semifinal win over Valley Regional, after a lopsided loss to the Warriors just two weeks prior. Coach Rossi believed that instilled a lot of confidence in his team for the Shoreline final, and that will be something returning players remember next season.
“That Valley game is the highlight of the season and my short career at Morgan so far. We were at Valley just before that and got our butts kicked, and we were able to overcome that,” Rossi said. “We played a great first half in the Shoreline final. Playing like that in that environment is huge. Those are little things that position us moving forward.”
Rossi credits his senior captains—Jon Fiorillo and Nic Colebank—for learning how to persevere and helping teach that to the rest of the team. Both captains have been on the squad since they were freshman, and after some lean years, they helped spearhead a reinvented Morgan program.
“We only had two seniors in the program. A lot of their classmates made a choice to step away from basketball after their freshman year. I’m proud of those two guys for toughing it out and getting this far after only winning eight games combined in their first two seasons,” Rossi said. “They deserve all the credit in the world. I’m happy we finished our season with a win for them. It wasn’t a state championship, but it was win No. 16 in March. We could walk away with our heads held high.”
Rossi believed his captains were more than quality leaders; they were also skilled role players.
“Jon was all over the place. He played a lot some games; he played a little in others. He understood his niche, and he was probably our best defensive player,” Rossi said. “Nic was a back up big man. The playing time wasn’t always there, but he showed up every day at practice and he contributed. You win games in practices not just in the 32 minutes of the game. Nic was a big part of that, and he was always ready when his number got called.”
Two of the biggest contributors on the team were junior big man Robbie Zirlis and junior point guard Zach Johnson. Zirlis averaged 11.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, and he earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors. Johnson supplied 16.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game and also earned an All-Shoreline Second Team distinction, as well.
“Zach Johnson and Robbie Zirlis were our best players, and they developed a lot this year. Zach had 25-point games four or five times. That’s not easy to do,” said Rossi. “There aren’t a lot of true big men in our league, and Robbie was one of the best big men in the Shoreline Conference. There was nobody that could dominate him consistently. In our semis win over Valley, it was Robbie in the first half and Zach in the second half.”
The Huskies also had some talented sophomores log important minutes. The most prominent of those were big man Connor Duffy and wing Alex Fratemico. Duffy would often back up Zirlis in the center position, but could also move out a bit and play the four. He averaged 5.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while Fratemico supplied 9.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per contest.
“Connor was very consistent and such an improved player. He has done so much compared to last year. He became more mobile and had confidence around the rim, and that grew as the season went on. As a sophomore, he was one of the emotional leaders on the team,” said Rossi. “Once Alex got rolling, he was almost impossible to guard. In Shorelines, he was solid against Hale-Ray, and he was unstoppable against Valley in the fourth quarter and overtime.”
Another pair of sophomores who were effective this year were backup point guard Drew Nye and sniper Jason Cohen. Cohen poured in 11.1 points per game to go with 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists, while Nye had 4.8 points and 1.1 assists.
“Drew went from just spot minutes to sixth man by the end of the season. He played with tremendous confidence on both ends. He’s a great thinker on the floor. He makes good decisions. He would impact games with the ball in his hands, and that allowed Zach to play off the ball,” Rossi said. “Jason led the Shoreline Conference in three pointers, and he shot 41-percent behind the arc. He knew his job on the floor, and if he had an off night, he’d be the first to step aside and let someone else have a shot.”
Other contributors included juniors Cam Carlson and Gavin Krott. Coach Rossi is excited to see how they improve further over the offseason.
“Cameron Carlson and Gaivin Krott are coming back as seniors. They were role players this year, but they have so much upside,” Rossi said. “Gavin is as tough as they come as a defender, and Cam can score from anywhere on the floor.”
Coach Rossi can’t wait for next season. He saw what this mostly young Morgan squad could do in the Shoreline, and next year the Huskies will have another year of experience and only loses two seniors to graduation.
“I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished and how guys developed physically and emotionally. I’m excited about what’s to come,” said Rossi. “The biggest problem going into next year is figuring out how to play everybody. We even had some really good freshman playing JV, and some were knocking on the door. It’s going to be an interesting thing to see develop.”
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