PORTSMOUTH – Matthew Minckler had a career night on the hardwood on Tuesday against Windham at Stone Gymnasium.
The Portsmouth High School boys basketball senior hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in regulation.
His successful pull-up jumper, with two Windham defenders draped over him, in the waning seconds of the first overtime sent the game into a second overtime.
And his 3-pointer in the final minute in the second overtime was the difference as the Clippers rallied for a 59-58 win over the Jaguars.
Of his career-high 34 points on Tuesday, 12 came in the fourth quarter, five came in the first overtime, and four came in the second overtime.
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Not too bad for a kid whose primary sports is not basketball. He committed in the fall of his junior year to play Division I baseball at Virginia Tech.
"He was incredible,” Portsmouth head coach John Mulvey said. “He stepped up and made a lot of big shots. He shot the ball well and really stepped up and just took charge. He took advantage of the moment. He has had a lot of great games for us, but that one was absolutely at the top of the list.”
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Minckler’s previous career high was a 23-point effort, and he called Tuesday “definitely” the best game of his high school basketball career.
'A great team win'
“I thought it was a great team win,” Minckler said. “Windham is a really good team. They are 7-4, and for a (playoff) seeding perspective, it was just a huge win for us. I am just proud of the team, we stayed with it the entire second half.”
The Clippers trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half.
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“We kept getting down by 1, 2 or 3 points, and every single time he would answer with a big shot for us,” Mulvey said. “He’s been shooting the ball well. He hit a deep one and then two possessions later, off an out-of-bounds play, we got him a another good-looking 3, and he hit that one. HIs confidence was really good, and he just stepped up and hit a lot more big shots throughout the rest of the night.”
Portsmouth improved to 6-5 with its second straight win after snapping a three-game losing streak.
"The crowd was awesome," Mulvey said. "The student section was going going nuts, the kids on the bench were going nuts; it was a big win for us and it was a lot of run to be part of an environment like that."
Mulvey reflects on watching Minckler past four years
Mulvey said it has been “fun to watch” Minckler develop over the course of his four-year career with the Clippers. Minckler, as a freshman, practiced with the varsity, but spent the season, save for a couple of minutes here and there, with the junior varsity.
He has been a varsity starter ever since.
“As a sophomore he was our defensive guy,” Mulvey said. “Last year, he was still our defensive guy but he would score a little bit. And this year we’re asking him to do everything. He’s our leading scorer, he plays defense on the other team’s best player, he rebounds the ball, and he passes the ball. He does everything for us. It’s been fun to watch him grow in all aspects of his game.”
Eight was enough
Minckler connected on eight 3-pointers in the game, none bigger, according to him, than the one he hit on the baseline in front of the Clipper bench that sent the game into overtime.
“Coach called up a great play to set me up and (Sebastian) Lambert got me the screen,” Minckler said. “It was a great team play to get those three points, and that basket gave me the opportunity to hit the other shots.”
Minckler, going into Friday’s Division I clash with Seacoast rival Spaulding, is filling up the scoresheet. He is averaging 18.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1 block a game.
“Once you get a couple going in the basket, it seems like the basket gets bigger and bigger, and it seems that is what happened to (Minckler),” Mulvey said. “It seemed like anything he put up there was going in. He did have a couple of misses, and that was a surprise when they didn’t.”
Heating up in second half
Minckler had just two points in the first quarter, and eight at the half as the Clippers had just 15 points in the first 16 minutes. He had five points in Portsmouth’s 12-point third quarter; then he got going.
“I had a feeling it was one of those nights where the ball was going in,” Minckler said.
Mulvey believes that if Minckler wasn’t so talented in baseball and going to play in the ACC with the Hokies, that a career in college basketball could have been an option.
"I tell him that all the time,” Mulvey joked. “He is obviously making the right choice with baseball and he’s incredible with that. But if baseball didn’t exist and he put all his time into basketball then he 1,000 percent would be a college basketball player.”
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Portsmouth High school boys basketball senior scores career high