By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Senior point guard Colby Morris returned to the Newburyport boys basketball squad (8-3), and helped play the role of a bad host to Ipswich (2-10) at home yesterday.
Things went according to plan for the Clippers, caging the Tigers 50-39.
Morris, who served a five-game MIAA violation suspension to start his new year, showed no rust on the court, leading his team in points with 15, and had the assistance of fellow seniors Colt Fontaine, who had 14, and Ian Michaels, who had eight after dropping 26 against Amesbury on Friday.
“We said before the game, we’re simply adding a piece, we’re not changing the way we’re going to play the game,” Clippers coach Tom L’Italien said of Morris’ return. “Everyone has got to play their roles. Some minutes are going to be sacrificed, some shots are going to be sacrificed. But ultimately, the quicker we realize that, the quicker we can get there. We can have a nice second-half push. Ultimately, it falls on the kids. They have to be their best, and we have a lot of depth now.”
Tigers junior guard Matt Vargas stared the day sinking his team’s first two points n the first minute, followed by Michaels’ first bucket. Tiger Nate Glaster sunk a pair next, followed by Morris’ first 3-pointer which was followed by another and then another in succession. Vargas remained hot, and his Tigers kept shooting well enough to end the period only two points behind, 15-13.
Newburyport’s Drew Bourdeau started the second period off with two to put his boys up three, which is exactly what Michaels sunk next to make it a six-point lead. Sophomore standout Mike Shay grabbed four next with a pair of beautiful drives, followed by a pair courtesy of Fontaine for 12 unanswered Clipper points. Vargas had two more as Newburyport headed for a 10-point, 28-18 lead at the half.
Ipswich got on the board first in the second half thanks to a Quinn O’Connor bucket. A free throw from Guthro was next, and then another two from O’Connor. But any momentum the Tigers were hoping to build sank in on itself after the next two points from Fontaine and a three-pointer from Michaels.
The Tigers cut into the Clipper lead briefly in the fourth quarter, but only briefly as Newburyport got its second wind and marched to the decisive final.
“I thought we played through some sloppiness,” said L’Italien. “We have a saying, hustle makes up for mistakes, and we just hustled at the right time.”
Tigers coach Alan Laroche said he was happy with his young team’s effort.
“Our guys have never given up this season, no matter what situation they are in,” said Laroche. “They work hard. And it’s great to see. We’re a young group of guys, mostly juniors. So the guys know they need to continue to work every day.”
“Tom does a great job of getting these guys ready to play every game,” Laroche said of L’Italien and his Clippers. “The intensity level that you see, you’ve got to match that every quarter, and when you don’t, your team is going to break down.”
“Overall, we know what we need to work on,” said L’Italien. “I give Ipswich credit, we knew they were going to come out and compete and they did. So we’ll get back to work and it is time to get ready for the next one.”