By Josh Weinreb
PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth boy’s basketball team earned only their fourth win of the season as they defeated the Westerly Bulldogs 76-72 at Portsmouth High School Friday evening. The Patriots improved to 4-15-0 with only four games remaining before the playoffs later this month.
The Patriots were led by the remarkable play of senior forward Sean Tullson who scored 19 points and hit five free throws. Senior forward Andrew Rossi, senior forward Bobby Chavous, and senior center Thomas Chlaupek also contributed for Portsmouth. Westerly senior captain Austin Cilley led all players with 28 points in the loss.
Portsmouth jumped ahead early in the game, racking up tons of possession time and pressure on the Westerly defense. Tullson seemed in the zone from the opening minutes, causing turnovers and racking up points for the home team. The Patriots continued their dominant play and built up a 10 point lead entering halftime.
The beginning of the second half of play was more of the same for the Patriots, as their offensive play and aggressive defense was too much for the Bulldogs to handle. With 6:45 remaining in the game, Portsmouth’s Bobby Chavous hit a crucial three from downtown, seemingly sealing the deal for the Patriots.
But Westerly found its footing, and in the final four minutes of the game would find a way to fight back, slowly shrinking the lead. With about a minute remaining, Portsmouth was slowly losing control of the game.
With the score almost even and 45 seconds remaining on the clock, Portsmouth head coach Joe Occhi called a time out to rally his players and remind them of their assignments.
“We were preparing for their full-court pressure,” Occhi said. “But a big thing too was to remind them of the score, the time, and the situation. And that they didn’t need to rush up the floor and shoot it up. But I’ll give (the players) the credit; they made the free throws at the end that were huge.”
And they did. After multiple foul attempts by Westerly to slow down the clock, Tullson and junior guard Brennan Tierney made the free throws to solidify the win for Portsmouth, their second since January 16.
With only a few weeks remaining in the season, the Patriots hopes for the playoffs seem distant. But coach Occhi remains confident that, with the schedule ahead of them, his team can rise to the occasion and occupy the tenth and final playoff spot.
“We’ve played much better than our record,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get over that hump all season.”
Tullson was the clear standout for the Patriots.
“Sean is all over the place. He’s just a solid player,” Occhi said. “He can shoot the three, he can go to the lane, and he can help out on the boards. He’s just a good solid basketball player and he’s taken the mantle of leadership. A lot of this team looks to him.”
“I hope it’s not too late,” he said. “If we have a good end of the season we can still get into the playoffs.”
The Patriots’ next match is Tuesday, Feb. 5, as they take on Chariho High School (after the Times goes to press). They will then return home for Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup against rival Rogers High School.