The Sheehan High boys basketball team used a 24-7 run to end the third quarter and take control of an otherwise tight contest in handing Shelton High a 71-60 defeat Friday night in Wallingford.
The Gaels split their two games last week, defeating Guilford 46-41 on Tuesday night, and now stand at 5-4 overall, and 1-1 in the Southern Connecticut Conference Housatonic Division.
Shelton needs to win three more games to qualify for both the Class LL and SCC tournaments for the second straight season.
The Sheehan contest was the first of four straight Housy games for the Gaels. Shelton traveled to Cheshire (3-3, 1-1) Tuesday night to take on the Rams, and returns home to host first place Amity (7-2, 2-0) on Friday night.
“I know that in this league, on any given night, anyone can beat anyone,” Shelton coach Brian Gardiner said. “I was real happy with the way we battled back. I just wish we weren’t in the predicament.”
For most of the Sheehan game, the Gaels played as well, if not better, than the Titans (5-5, 2-1).
But Sheehan dominated the final five minutes of the third quarter and never looked back. The Titans got strong play from their three quick guards, Justin MacDonald, Brandon Rentas and Garry Lancaster, to lead the spurt.
MacDonald, scoreless in the first half, scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the run.
The normally consistent Shelton squad seemed to get rattled during the stretch.
“Too many turnovers for one, and a little trouble on the defensive end,” said Gardiner when asked what went wrong in the third quarter.
Down by as many as 17 points on two occasions early in the fourth quarter, including 58-41 with 6:34 remaining in the game, the Gaels could have just packed it in and looked ahead to next week. But they didn’t.
The Gaels kept battling, eventually cutting the Titan lead to just seven points, 62-55, on a Craig Packnick lay-up with 1:28 left.
But Sheehan was able to break Shelton’s defensive pressure on its ensuing possession, and Lancaster scored on a driving layup to end the Gael comeback hopes.
There were four lead changes in a closely contested first half. Shelton jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead on baskets by Christian Federici and Mike Davis.
The Titans answered with 11 straight points, but Shelton closed out the first quarter on a 12-2 run to lead 16-13. Davis and Ben Malay each hit a 3-pointer in the run.
Sheehan made three straight treys at one point in the second quarter, and led 29-26 at the half despite nine points each from Davis and Malay.
The third quarter started out well enough for Shelton, as Packnick scored the first two field goals of the second half to help Shelton regain the lead, 30-29, before Sheehan took control.
Gardiner was particularly pleased with the 12-point and 14-rebound effort from his senior co-captain.
“He’s always giving you his best. That’s what a captain is supposed to do,” said Gardiner of Packnick.
Malay led the Gaels with 17 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Davis added 15 points.
Federici had seven points and seven rebounds in limited action due to foul trouble.
On Tuesday night, the Gaels used a balanced attack to outlast Guilford, 46-41.
Federici scored a game-high 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Malay added 12 points to lead Shelton.
Davis chipped in with seven points, while Packnick contributed six points and 12 rebounds against Guilford (4-4).