PORTAGE | Effort has never been an issue for Portage. Scoring has been.
The Indians put the two together in a fourth-quarter rally Thursday that saw them overcome a 10-point deficit to stun Chesterton 47-44 for a Duneland Athletic Conference win.
"It's a really good win for the kids. They've battled all year," Portage coach Rick Snodgrass said. "We've played solid defense all year. I've said it before, the key for us is making shots. Every team's game is more fluis when they make shots. We didn't shoot a high percentage, but we hit some key shots down the stretch and had two really good stops at the end."
Down 10 early in the fourth quarter, Portage chipped away at the deficit, clawing back within 41-40 on a Jordan Collazo 3 inside the four-minute mark. It took a 43-42 lead on a Michael Lattanzi triple at 2:04. After Chris Palombizio answered with a long step-back 2 from the wing to put the Trojans ahead by one. Luke Kizer's left-handed layup on a drive through the lane put Portage in front 45-44 with 48 seconds left.
Cole Teal lost the ball on a drive, Collazo came up with it and was fouled going to the basket. He made both free throws with 12.6 seconds left. Teal got off a contested fall-away 3 from the deep right wing, but it caromed off the rim as time expired.
"I appreciate how hard they play. I've never had to worry about them playing hard," Snodgrass said. "We've lost so many close games, I told them to enjoy it. Any time you can get a Duneland Conference victory against a good team, you should enjoy it."
Teal, playing his first game since before Christmas due to a broken clavicle, scored 15 points with 3 3-pointers, including two for Chesterton's first six points. Chris Palombizio led all scorers with 19 points, but save for a pair of Corey Rusboldt treys in the second quarter, there was little else to speak of for the Trojans (9-7, 2-4) on offense.
The Trojans left the door open by missing three of five free throws in the fourth quarter and eight of 20 for the game.
"We were a little impatient maybe, but you don’t want to try not to lose," coach Tom Peller said. "You want to keep playing. We just didn't get stops when we needed them. We had a lot of unforced turnovers that hurt us. We didn't shoot free throws well, but give credit to Portage. They fought. They made plays down the stretch."
Chesterton (9-7, 2-4) took just 24 shots, due primarily to 21 turnovers, but was still poised to pull away, leading 38-27 late in the third on a Teal four-point play. Portage (9-9. 1-5) shot 30 percent for three quarters before lighting up in the fourth, when it went 7 of 8.
Collazo scored 11 of his 15 points after the half, finishing 8 of 12 at the foul line. Lattanzi had seven of his 10 points in the fourth quarter. The Indians played without starter Jacob Bearss (flu).
"It was really a team victory," Snodgrass said. "We had guys step up and play big minutes, Tyler McCann, Oliver Bishop, De'Juan Nelson. It was a good atmosphere. It was exciting to see."
The Trojans have lost four in a row.