All season long the Shelton High girls basketball teams’ game plan was relatively simple. In their half-set offense, the Gaelettes wanted to get the ball into senior guard Megan Burke’s hands and either let her drive or have her dish the ball off to classmate Alyssa Eannotti or up-and-coming freshman Nicole Roberts inside.
That strategy failed Friday night, when Shelton played host to Jonathan Law of Milford in both teams’ capper of the Southern Connecticut Conference schedule.
Leading 36-35 going into the final quarter, the Gaelettes eventually lost, 49-43, and will take an 8-12 record into the state tournament.
Law, which finished with three straight wins after losing 14 of its first 17 games, outscored Shelton, 14-7, over that eight-minute span.
“We really forgot what we were supposed to do and that was to get the ball inside and use our size to create miss-matches,” Shelton coach Mary Piccirillo said.
“We managed to get good penetration from Megan down the stretch, but we needed a little more than that.”
Law’s defense had something to do with the Gaelettes’ fourth-quarter meltdown. The Eagles forced seven of Shelton’s 21 turnovers in the quarter and took their final lead at 43-41 with 1:26 left on a basket from Sam Murphy, the game’s leading scorer with 22 points.
From a two-point lead, Law kept expanding its margin, as Shelton was forced to foul in order to get the ball back.
Law made 5-of-6 free throws in the closing 40 seconds including four from Murphy.
Roberts, who shared team scoring honors with Eannotti (each had 10 points, while Burke added nine), scored the game’s first basket, but the Gaels trailed 13-10 after one quarter.
Burke gave Shelton an 18-17 lead at 4:20 of the second, but once again the Eagles rallied to take a 23-22 halftime lead.
Behind Burke, Shelton re-gained the lead, 24-23, at the start of the third quarter before falling behind by as many as five points.
Burke scored two more baskets during a late-quarter run, and the Gaelettes led 36-35 going into the home stretch.
“We kept striving to get better and we did,” Law coach Heather Borges said. “We’re playing our best basketball now. If we had three games left, I bet we’d make the playoffs. Unfortunately, we don’t.”
Meanwhile, the Gaelettes will now wait for states.
“We’ll look at film from our last two games (the other one a 65-12 loss to Mercy) and try to put this behind us,” Piccirillo said.
Shelton shot 34 percent from the field, one percentage point better than Law, in making 19-of-53 attempts.
The Gaelettes held a 41-35 margin in rebounds, led by 11 from Roberts, but they also took the top spot in turnovers, 21-18.
Both Burke and Eannotti were honored before the game, as the team’s only seniors.
Burke will attend Amherst College next fall, where she will play soccer.
Eannotti will stay closer to home at Danbury’s Western Connecticut State University, where she’ll play basketball.