MIDDLETOWN >> After compiling a perfect 10-0 league mark during the regular season, the Portland boys golf team was the prohibitive favorite in Thursday’s Shoreline Conference championship match. The Highlanders then went out and showed why they were the league’s best this season.
Junior Nick Piersall fired a 2-under par 69 and Portland ended Morgan’s three-year championship reign at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain. It was the Highlanders first SLC golf title since 2011 and first under the guidance of head coach Joe Santavenere.
“It was awesome,” Santavenere said. “The kids played great. We wanted this week to be as routine as possible and treat the final the same as any other match. And the kids played great. This was one of our goals.”
Piersall, who earned medalist honors, was the only player under par.
“Nick was locked in,” Santavenere said. “He was focused and throwing darts at the pins all day. He’s a special player. He loves the game and pushes himself to get better every day.”
Portland junior Jimmy Kelley made five birdies and finished with a 76. Senior captain Jon Twitchell fired an 81, while sophomore Jon Lucas carded an 84 to give the Highlanders a match-low score of 310. The Highlanders also got a nice, non-counting score from junior Drew Tammaro, who shot an 87.
“To get all five guys to score like that was a nice advantage,” Santavenere explained. “That’s one of the best tournament scores I’ve seen.”
Three-time defending champion Morgan, which shot a runner-up 326, was led by Kevin Daley, who fired a three-over 74.
Cromwell (336) was third, Old Lyme placed fourth (340), and Coginchaug finished fifth with a 341.
Portland, which finished second a year ago, gained a lot of confidence earlier this season by winning the prestigious Wildcat Invitational where the Highlanders outshot some larger schools like Xavier, Glastonbury and host Norwich Free Academy.
“This has been building and building,” Santavenere said. “The kids have been taking steps and getting better every year. They were second a year ago and today they really wanted to finish it off.”
Some top area individual performances included Cromwell’s Nick Lattanzio, who fired a 75; Hale-Ray’s Brian Rasimas, who shot an 80; Haddam-Killingworth’s Johnny Maio and Coginchaug’s Tyler Woodward, who each shot 81; East Hampton’s Alex Basil, who carded an 83;and Valley Regional’s Jake Patterson, who shot an 84.
The Division IV state tournament takes place on June 7 at Fairview Farm Golf Course in Harwinton.
“That’s our next goal,” Santavenere added. “The kids are really excited. We’ll have a scrimmage next week to keep them sharp.”