DURHAM >> They’ve combined to win close to 1,200 girls basketball games, numerous league titles and five state championships. But Portland’s Nick Chaconis and Coginchaug’s Nick Economopoulos never got a chance to match X’s and O’s.
The Blue Devils routed the Highlanders, 55-26, Thursday at the Coginchaug gymnasium. Despite the lopsided score, the two longtime coaches shared a mutual respect afterwards.
“It’s amazing…we finally met,” said Chaconis, who led Portland to the Class S state title in 2011 and is now in his 40th season, all with the Highlanders.
“He worked hard for his (wins) I’ll tell you that,” said Economopoulos, who won four state titles at Lyman Hall (1985 and 1986) and East Catholic (2002 and 2004). “I don’t know if I worked as hard for mine as he did for his. He’s a good coach.”
Economopoulos is in his first season coaching in the Shoreline Conference and his senior-laden Blue Devils, who’ve won three of their last four, are starting to show signs that they could be a team who makes some noise at tournament time.
“We’re starting to do some things that we want to do,” said Economopoulos. “We played great against Morgan (a 51-45 loss on Monday).”
Against Portland, the Blue Devils forced numerous turnovers in the first quarter and raced out to a 22-5 lead behind nine points from senior guard Kim Romanoff.
Leading 39-15 early in the third quarter, Coginchaug went on an impressive 16-0 run. Highlights included a reverse layup from junior forward Naomi Rinaldo and a corner 3-pointer from reserve senior guard Sydney Trusty.
Blue Devils senior forward Morgan Kuehnle (five rebounds) led all scorers with 16 points. Senior center Caryn Sibiskie added 11 points and five rebounds, while Romanoff finished with 13 points as Coginchaug improved to 9-3, 8-2 in the Shoreline.
“We’re better than them and we played better than them…that’s all,” said Economopoulos.
Senior guard Jill McGrath drained a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and led the Highlanders with 14 points. Junior guard Brooke Marconi had six points, while senior Brittany DiCioccio added three points.
“It’s tough,” said Chaconis. “We don’t have a lot of the pieces. Emma (Fantoli), our freshman center is coming along, and the sophomores do well in spots. Our league is strong so we’re not going to get any gifts. It doesn’t get any easier.”
Portland has dropped eight straight while falling to 1-12, 0-11 in the SLC.
“We just have to point to the next game and feel like we can win the next one,” said Chaconis. “We go into practice every day and they give 100 percent and that’s all you can ask for. I’m not happy with the record but I’m happy with the way they’re performing. They’re trying their best.”