By Jimmy Zanor
@ShoreLineSports on Twitter
PORTLAND >> Former Charter Oak Conference foes Portland and East Hampton renewed their rivalry Tuesday night. And although the teams are moving in opposite directions this season, it wasn’t an easy victory for the Bellringers.
Freshman forward Gyanna Russell came off the bench and scored a game-high 17 points and sophomore guards Meghan Orbann and Renee Radavich made some key plays down the stretch to lift East Hampton past the upset-minded Highlanders, 44-34, in a Shoreline Conference border clash at Bengston Memorial Gymnasium.
“In these border wars you can throw out the records,” said East Hampton coach Shaun Russell. “I told the kids that last week. These games are about pride in your program. This is not just about another regular game in February. I knew we were going to get a real good effort out of Nick’s kids and we did.”
Senior guard Brittany DiCiocco kept Portland within striking distance by burying four 3-pointers, including three in the fourth quarter as the Highlanders rallied from a 14-point deficit. DiCiocco finished with 15 points, while senior guard Jill McGrath added 13 points.
“I give our two seniors credit,” said Portland coach Nick Chaconis. “They basically get no rest.”
East Hampton led 20-15 at halftime. The Bellringers then held Portland to just two points in the third quarter while building a 29-17 advantage.
Russell, who buried a 3-pointer with just 13 seconds left in the third, converted a conventional three-point play early in the fourth to give the Bellringers their largest lead at 32-18.
“(Gyanna’s) progression has been nice all year,” Russell added. “Offensively she has some tools and we try to put her in a place where she can be successful. She continues to learn and grow and get better within our scheme.”
McGrath started Portland’s comeback with her own three-point play on a driving layup and free throw. After Russell made a layup, DiCiccio sandwiched a pair of 3-point bombs between a McGrath steal and bucket and Portland trailed 34-29 with 4:26 remaining.
Russell and Orbann added free throws and then Radavich (seven points) made a huge putback off a missed free throw to give East Hampton a 38-29 lead with 2:40 left.
“Every time we would get close they would get that second basket,” said Chaconis. “I thought a big one was off the foul shot. All off a sudden it’s a three-point play. We just don’t have enough weapons to get over that hump.”
Brooke Maroni had four points for the Highlanders (1-15), which also lost to East Hampton (46-25) on Dec. 30.
“We played good enough defense to win the game,” added Chaconis. “I’m proud of the way they played. If they play like that down the stretch, if nothing else it will help us for next year.”
Orbann finshed with five points, eight rebounds and three steals. Sarah Massie had nine points and three blocks. The Bellringers (11-5) also got a big lift off the bench from seniors Megan Close and Taryn McCabe.
“At this time of the season you want to play better and build,” Russell explained. “But at the end fo the day there are no style points. You want to win the game.”