A hot start for the Shelton High boys basketball team quickly turned as cold as the frigid weather outside in a 67-57 loss to Southington on Wednesday night in the first round of the Shelton Holiday Tournament at Murray Gymnasium.
Coupled with a 77-56 loss at North Haven on Saturday, the Gaels fell to 0-3 on the season.
Shelton will look to earn its first win on Friday when it hosts Achievement First High School at 5 p.m. in the consolation game of the tournament. Achievement First was beaten 79-33 by New Canaan in a first round game on Wednesday.
The Gaels got off to a quick start Wednesday night, attacking Southington’s man-to-man defense behind senior point guard Kyle Davis.
Davis scored 10 of his career-high 17 in the first quarter, including a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left, to give Shelton a 22-19 lead heading into the second quarter.
But the Blue Knights (2-1) switched to a zone defense in the second frame, and Shelton struggled to get much going offensively.
“When they played man, we were able to get to the basket at will,” said Shelton coach Brian Gardiner. “Once they went zone, it takes us back.”
The Gaels also started to regularly get outrebounded by Southington on the defensive end.
“We couldn’t get a clean rebound,” said Gardiner. “They kept getting second and third chances. If we can’t get a clean rebound, it’s hard to get up the floor.”
All told, Southington went on a 28-8 run over about 11 minutes to take a 47-30 lead midway through the third quarter.
“We’re just making a lot of mistakes, especially on the defensive end,” said Gardiner of his team. “What that does is carries over to sluggishness on the offensive end.”
The Gaels battled back to make things interesting, getting to within seven points four times in the fourth quarter.
The first happened with 6:12 left in the game.
Brian Berritto (9 points) blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound and eventually set up Davis for a trey to make it 56-49 with 6:12 remaining.
But the Blue Knights had an answer to that as well as the next three times Shelton got within seven to hold the Gaels at bay.
The final time Shelton got within seven was with 1:52 left when Berritto made a steal, fed Brian Belade on the break who dished it back to Berritto for an easy lay-up.
But Southington’s Andrew Lohneiss capped his 20-point performance with a breakaway lay-up and slam dunk over a span of 35 seconds to push the Blue Knight advantage back to double digits.
Peri Basimakopoulos led the way offensively for Shelton with 20 points, including three 3-pointers.
The Gaels shot a solid 45 percent from the field, but allowed Southington to not only shoot 48 percent but also take 14 more shots than Shelton due largely to second and third chances.
Gardiner will be looking for his Gaels to pump up the intensity when they play Achievement First, a relatively new charter school located in Hartford, on Friday.
Said Gardiner, “The guys have to bring a little more tenacity to what they are doing on the floor, a little more sense of urgency.”