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Article Published January 9, 2022

Huskies Trying to Overcome Obstacles Early

By By Dean Bibens

After starting its season with a win against East Hampton, the Morgan boys’ basketball squad dropped its next three contests and was in need of a victory when the team hosted Haddam-Killingworth last week. The Huskies rose to the occasion and defeated the Cougars by a 71-35 score on Jan. 8, improving their record to 2-3 on the year.

It was an important win for a Morgan team that enters the 2021-’22 campaign on the heels of an undefeated season that saw the Huskies claim the Shoreline Conference title. Despite the slow start, Head Coach Frank Rossi feels confident that his squad will see success once some key players get back on the court.

“We return four key players from last year’s championship team. Given our roster, we are poised to make another run. We have a great mix of experienced upperclassmen and some younger, new faces that have earned spots in the rotation,” Coach Rossi said. “The league is so balanced this year. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun competing. The last few years, [the Shoreline Conference] has been a bit top-heavy with one or two dominant teams. This year, at least early on, it looks like there could be four to five teams, maybe more, that will compete for the conference championship. The tournament is going to be really fun.”

Morgan started off last week by taking a 59-46 road loss against Valley Regional on Jan. 4. Morgan was down 15-6 after the first quarter, but outscored the Warriors 16-10 in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 25-22 at halftime. Valley brought a 41-37 advantage into the fourth quarter and then won the final frame by an 18-9 margin to come away with the 13-point victory.

Junior guard Cooper Galdenzi scored 18 points for Morgan in the game. Senior captain guard Andrew Nye had 12 points for the Huskies. Senior captain Alex Fratamico added seven points on the night.

Coach Rossi described the Valley game as a “toss loss.” Rossi felt that Morgan had several opportunities to gain some momentum and put itself in position to get the win, but the Huskies just ran out of gas down the stretch.

“In the end, I think fatigue got to us. We made too many mental mistakes in the second half, and that really cost us,” said Rossi. “This is the reality of navigating through this period of COVID. We haven’t had our full team together since mid-December. This game was Alex’s first day back. We’ve been practicing with 9, 10, or 11 guys for a better part of the last three weeks. It’s almost like starting the season over as we start to get some of key guys back into practice and games and then start to build back that continuity and rhythm we had before the outbreak.”

Morgan started to find that rhythm when the Huskies claimed a 71-35 home victory over Haddam- Killingworth on Jan. 8. Morgan outscored the Cougars 43-17 in the first half on its way to the win. Nye and Galdenzi scored 13 points apiece for the Huskies.

After making history last year, Coach Rossi and the Huskies entered this season with more great expectations. However, a COVID outbreak amongst the team forced Morgan to take a step back and try to get its bearings.

“We’ve raised the bar each year since I joined the team. We were fortunate to win our season opener on the road against a very good East Hampton team and looked to build from there. However, within 24 hours, we were forced to deal with a COVID outbreak,” Rossi said. “Unfortunately, our next game versus North Branford had to be postponed. By the time we got to East Lyme, we were down to six varsity players. With a roster of 11 players, we continued to play after Christmas, losing to the host Stratford in their holiday tournament.”

Despite these obstacles, the Huskies continue to remain optimistic as they play their way into the heart of their campaign. Coach Rossi said that he would rather see Morgan go through struggles early in the year, rather than during the playoffs.

“Fortunately, many of our players experienced either no symptoms or very mild symptoms, so their return to play will be fairly quick. We’re going to continue to do our best to deal with the situation and follow whatever rules and guidance we are provided,” said Rossi. “My fear, particularly during the next few weeks, is that we will be forced to deal with more postponements and cancellations. Mix in our typical winter weather, and February’s schedule might get a little hairy.”

Fratamico and Nye are leading Morgan as the team’s captains alongside fellow senior Connor Duffy. The Huskies’ senior class also features Cameron Johnson, Dante DiGianni, Dominic Cacopardo, Michael Fragola, Brady Fritz, and Timothy McComiskey.

Along with Galdenzi, Morgan’s junior corps includes Eddie Dwake, Ben McDonnell, and Matthew Reed. John Nye is a sophomore on the squad.

Morgan has home games against Old Saybrook and Old Lyme on its schedule this week, after which the Huskies will face Hale-Ray and Coginchaug on the road. Even with the early ups and downs, Coach Rossi’s message to his players remains the same—he wants the Huskies to practice and compete at a championship level each and every day.

“Winning breeds confidence, and our successful progression during the previous three seasons taught our players how to win. They now know what it takes to win, how to practice, how to behave, how to prepare. The challenge for this year’s team is to maintain that level of discipline, continue to pay attention to details, and continue to grow as a team,” Rossi said. “We don’t like to put specific outcomes like, ‘Championship or bust,’ on our seasons, but we truly believe that if we can stay healthy and work every day at the level we expect, we will be in a position to compete for a Shoreline title again. Hopefully, we make a deep run in the state tournament.”