Portland High School boys’ basketball captains (l-r) Harrison Collins, Eli Evison, Jake Thompson, and Evan Johnson
Just like every team in the state, the boys’ basketball team at Portland High School is experiencing the trials and tribulations of an uncertain winter sports season.
The Highlanders started with a 65-58 victory over Westbrook behind 20 points, seven rebounds, and a pair of blocks from Eli Evison.
It was an ideal start for head coach David Bradbury, who is in his second year leading the Highlanders.
“This is an entirely new group at the varsity level,” said Bradbury, who graduated nine seniors a year ago. “They are extremely talented and we have some great size. I think we can be a great team, we just have to fit some pieces together.”
Following the season-opening win, the team dropped the next two games and had a pair of games canceled due to COVID-related reasons during the winter break.
Bradbury said the team struggled defensively and the offense was stagnant in the losses, adding, “I think the boys were getting used to each other. The team looked lethargic, the game was very slow and monotonous, and it’s not the tempo I want these boys to play with. I want them to push, go have fun and play basketball. I want them to learn how to play the game the right way.”
The team has responded by winning two of three after the holiday break, defeating Coginchaug 62-43 and Hale Ray 63-43.
“I like what I see now and it was evident in the game against Coginchaug,” added Bradbury. “The boys are really starting to push in transition and defensively we picked it up with our assignments and executed on that end.”
In the home win over Coginchaug on Jan. 4, the Highlanders were clicking on all cylinders.
Junior Joe Rusczyk led the way with 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Jake Thompson chipped in with 11 points and Evan Johnson added 10 points and seven rebounds. Harrison Collins and Evison each added nine points to complete a balanced attack.
“The more guys we have touching the ball, the better. We want to play a great brand of team basketball and push the ball. We want to play with a great pace and put the guys in a position to succeed,” said Bradbury.
Evison, Thompson, and Johnson are Bradbury’s senior captains. Collins, a junior, is also a captain.
“The senior captains are a great bunch. They are fantastic, responsible seniors and they set great examples,” said Bradbury. “Having those three seniors have been pivotal. They have helped us pivot on the fly.”
Bradbury added that the team is taking a “one game at a time” approach and believes the pieces are in place for a solid season. The team’s next home game is against Shoreline Conference rival East Hampton on Fri. Jan 21 at 7 p.m.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin