The effort was there in the final minutes of the Shelton High basketball team’s game with visiting Foran, but the execution fell short.
After cutting an eight-point deficit with 5:10 left down to one with 3:10 to go, the Gaels could not come up with the big bucket or two that they needed in the final three minutes of a 51-48 loss to Foran Friday night at Murray Gymnasium.
“[Foran] missed seven straight foul shots, they couldn’t even put the game away, and we had [five] straight possessions within one point…and we could not execute,” said Shelton coach Brian Gardiner of the key two-minute stretch late in the game.
After Peri Basimakopoulos nailed a trey to cut Foran’s lead to just one point, 46-45, the Lions missed seven straight free throws: three misses on the front end of one-and-ones, and then two misses each twice.
But Shelton couldn’t capitalize, missing a pair 3-pointers, turning the ball over twice, and losing the ball on another possession when Brian Berritto was called for a charge on a play that looked like it could have gone either way.
“Things just did not go our way, and that’s just been the way it’s been,” said Gardiner. “It’s absolutely frustrating because, like I said, they’re working for it. They’re just not going through the motions. They just can’t finish the game.”
Even with the five straight failed possessions, Shelton still had a chance in the final minute to win or at least send the game into overtime.
Foran’s Mark Wootton ended Foran’s free throw misery by making three-of-four within a 15-second span to boost the Lion advantage to 49-45.
Shelton’s Will Ciccone made three-of-four free throws around another Foran foul shot, and the Gaels forced a turnover to get the ball back with 23 seconds left trailing 50-48.
But after a timeout with 10 seconds left, Foran’s Tyler Heenan stole an inbounds pass that was earmarked for Brian Berritto at the top of the arc. He made one free throw to make it 51-48 with eight ticks remaining.
The Gaels (1-10) had one final chance to send the game into an extra period, but Basimakopoulos’ off-balance three from the right wing missed at the buzzer and Foran (6-5) escaped with the victory.
Team defense and rebounding sparked a first half that saw the Gaels lead by as many as 10 points, before taking a 24-17 lead into the intermission.
Matt Hunyadi scored nine first-half points, all on 3-pointers, and Berritto added eight.
But the Lions came out of halftime fired up, outscoring Shelton 22-9 in the third quarter to take a 39-33 lead into the final quarter.
Shelton used four treys — two each by Ciccone and Basimakopoulos — to cut the Foran lead down to just the one point with 3:10 left.
For the Gaels, who got 12 points from Basimakopoulos, 11 from Ciccone and 10 from Berritto, it’s important to keep fighting like they did against Foran if they are going to pull out their elusive first close win of the season.
“Effort-wise, energy-wise, perfect. That’s where we need to be,” added Gardiner. “But in the end, they have to execute.”
The Gaels have winnable games next week.
They travel to Wallingford on Monday night to take on a Sheehan team that beat Shelton by just two points, 64-62, earlier this month.
Shelton then hosts Joel Barlow of Redding, from the South West Conference, on Wednesday night. The Falcons are 5-4, but struggled to beat Masuk in overtime, a team Shelton lost to in overtime to start the season.
The Gaels round out the week with a road game at North Haven (6-3) on Friday.
Gael notes: The Shelton game was part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Coaches vs. Cancer program. The initiative helps raise both money and awareness in the fight against cancer. Shelton unveiled its two new basketball scoreboards before the game.
Tyler Heenan 3 1-2 9, Mark Wootton 1 3-4 6, Victor Rios 1 0-0 3, Matt Cruz 5 2-6 15, John Shannon 4 0-3 8, Todd Gentley 4 2-4 10. Totals: 18 8-19 51
Brian Berritto 4 1-1 10, Kyle Davis 2 0-0 4, Kevin Belden 0 0-0 0, Peri Basimakopoulos 4 0-0 12, Will Ciccone 2 5-6 11, Brian Belade 0 0-0 0, Matt Hunyadi 4 0-0 11, Michai Lynch 0 0-0 0, Robert Correia 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 6-7 48
3-point goals: Amity (Heenan 2, Wootton 1, Rios 1, Cruz 3); Shelton (Berritto 1, Basimakopoulos 4, Hunyadi 3, Ciccone 2)
Foran 10 7 22 12 — 51
Shelton 11 13 9 15 — 48