Shelton High entered its Southern Connecticut Conference intra-division road game at Branford on Friday night having gone through a string of punishing two-point losses.
It was definitely on the mind of head coach Brian Gardiner, as the Gaels finally pulled away late in the fourth quarter for a 49-44 win.
The Gaels will put to play much better when they play at unbeaten Notre Dame of West Haven (12-0) on Monday night.
“We played barely well enough tonight,” Gardiner said shortly after the game which evened the Gaels’ record at 6-6. “This game wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure. It’s a win that we needed, but I could see it going away from us in the fourth quarter. We did a lot of silly things during one stretch and, it almost cost us.”
On the strength of an 18-point third quarter, Shelton entered the final eight minutes of a sloppy game filled with missed shots and poor offensive play, leading by 13 points at 40-29.
It didn’t take long for the Hornets to chip away. They scored the first seven points: on a three by Aiden Jacobson; a two by Kevin Baxter and a pair of foul shots by Justin Elpi.
Suddenly, Shelton’s margin was more than cut in half.
After Brian Berritto made one of two from the line, the Hornets attacked again.
Baxter made a three, his fourth of the game, before Jacobson followed up a steal with a lay-up to make it 43-41 with 3:20 remaining.
Down the stretch, the Gaels got to the foul line and made 6-of-11 and put the game out of reach with only 12.5 seconds to play.
The teams played even through one quarter at 15, before a scoring drought by both manufactured a period in which Shelton scored seven points and Branford was only able to put up four.
Shelton’s good third quarter saw Berritto score had four of his game-high 21 points and Peri Basimakopoulos nail a pair of treys.
“We simply weren’t able to match their speed,” said Branford coach Chris Burnham, whose team has a lone win against 11 losses. “That’s not something that you can duplicate in practice. We tried to get back quicker and put up a hand whenever we could.”
Brian Belade had 15 points for Shelton.
Both teams made 17 field goals, with Branford holding a slightly better edge in percentage. Branford was 17 for 46 (38 per cent), while Shelton was 17-of-51 (33 per cent).
Shelton made 10-of 16 from the foul line with the Hornets going 6-of-10.
Led by 10 rebounds from Kevin Belden, Shelton won the battle of the boards, 41-36. The Gaels also had five fewer turnovers, 16-11.
“What we did well tonight was play some good defense,” Gardiner said. “We held them in check at times. The fourth quarter is really what hurt us.”
Next up, is a Notre Dame team that’s averaging 76.6 points a game.
SHELTON 49, BRANFORD 46
Justin Elpi 1 6-8 9, Kevin Baxter 6 0-0 13, Kam Holmes 0 0-2 0, Aiden Jacobson 4 0-0 9, Jack Van Gelder 6 0-0 13, Anuj Khadka 1 0-0 2, Kosta Gionteris 0 0-0 0 Totals: 18 6-10 46
Brian Berritto 6 5-9 19, Brian Belade 1 0-0 2, Peri Basimakopoulos 4 3-5 15, Robert Correia 0 1-2 1, Kevin Belden 3 2-3 8, Jakai Barnes 1 0-0 2, Melvin Kolenovic 1 0-0 2 Totals: 16 11-19 49
Branford 15 4 10 17 – 46
Shelton 15 7 18 9 – 49
3-point goals: Branford (Elpi 1, Baxter 1, Jacobson 1, Van Gelder 1); Shelton (Berritto 2, Basimakopoulos 4)