It’s one thing to turn things around following a losing season and quite another to do what Shelton High has accomplished.
The Gaels earned eight more regular-season wins than a year ago, posting an 11-9 mark and earning the No. 16 seed in the Division III state playoffs.
Shelton opened states with a 71-58 decision over Maloney of Meriden and then upset top-seeded Wamogo, 69-60.
Coach Brian Gardiner’s Gaels will play No. 9 Amistad Academy (16-6) tonight at 7 in a quarterfinal matchup at Wilbur Cross High in New Haven.
“It was a great win, against a great team in a tremendous basketball environment,” Gardiner said of the second-round win. “They were the number eight team in the state…23-0.
“I am so proud of my team for how they performed. We stepped up big time. The guys wanted to win this game so badly, it feels great. We played our best game of the season at the right time.”
Against Wamogo, Shelton jumped out to a 17-11 lead after one quarter and held a 33-32 edge at the half. The Gaels went up 47-42 through three quarters.
Melvin Kolenovic scored 18, Basimakopoulos poured in 17, including nine on a trio of shots from downtown.
Belade had 14.
Berritto and Kevin Belden, who sank a pair of 3-pointers, had 10 each.
Berritto pulled down five rebounds, dished out eight assists and turned the ball over only once.
Kolenovic grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked six shots.
Basimakopoulos had eight rebounds.
Belden and Belade each had five rebounds.
Gardiner commended his players for putting up some tremendous individual efforts to gain a collective reward.
“Melvin dominated the paint, putting up a double-double including a season high in points,” he said.
“Belden played unbelievable defense against one of the best guards in the state.
“Berritto found open people — and he and Belade handled their press brilliantly.
“Peri knocked down some big threes and everyone rebounded. It was a great team effort.
“Now we are focused on the next game and putting together a game plan for Amistad. We are in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1990.”
Prior to upending Wamogo, the Gaels had to get past a plucky Maloney squad.
“I’m proud of their effort, their focus,” Gardiner said. “It feels good. It’s a testament to them. It takes a certain group of guys to be able to do this.”
Basimakopolous led the way with 25 points, accumulating 22 of them in the first half, including four 3-pointers in Shelton’s 23-point second quarter.
Berritto scored 14 of his 22 after halftime.
Belade added 10 for the Gaels, who saw its lead cut to eight with two minutes to play.
Shelton scored nine of its 15 fourth-quarter points on free throws to ensure victory.
“We played an unbelievable first half. We did what we were supposed to do,” Gardiner said.
SHELTON 69, WAMOGO 60
Brian Berritto 1 1 5-6 10, Brian Belade 5 0 4-6 14, Peri Basimakopoulos 2 3 4-4 17, Kevin Belden 2 2 0-0 10, Melvin Kolenovic 7 0 4-6 18, Gavin Rohlman 0 0 0-0 0, Robert Correia 0 0 0-0 0
Totals: 17 6 17-22 69
Eric Odenwaelder 1 0 0-0 2, Ethan Collins 3 5 1-2 22, Sean Coffey 0 0 1-2 1, Reid Turtoro 3 0 0-0 6, Garrett Sattazahn 10 0 5-5 25, Matt Mazzarelli 2 0 0-2 4
Totals: 19 5 7-9 60
3-point goals: Wamogo (Collins 5); Shelton (Berritto 1, Basimakopoulos 3, Belden 2).