Shelton High placed two teams in the inaugural season of the Stratford Girls High School Basketball League with an eye toward improving the program’s chances of success in the short and long term.
Shelton 1 is made up of varsity-ready players preparing for the strong opposition it will face in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
Shelton 2’s roster consists primarily of rising sophomores and incoming freshman taking the next step up the competitive ladder.
After taking on Warde in the three-game lidlifter inside Stratford’s Birdseye Rec Center on Aug. 1, the locals couldn’t have gotten a better read on what awaits them.
Warde of Fairfield boasts the Mustang’s entire varsity team, and the edge in experience they brought to the court was apparent throughout their 53-21 victory.
Not reflected on the scoreboard was Shelton’s talent level.
Athena Klonarasas, Casey O’Connor and Ally Yakowitz played up front, while Colleen Flood, Sarah Skowronski and Devin Spistoo shared duties in the backcourt.
Shelton never got caught up in a running game with the pressing Mustangs. Instead, it ran its offensive sets often being denied by Warde’s taller frontcourt players.
Playing 20-minute halves, the rivals matched defensive intensity and layups were a rarity.
Warde took a 4-0 lead, before Klonarasas stole an entry pass and fed Skowronski, who slashed her way past a defender, was fouled, and canned both free throws.
Skowronski next hit a runner around a screen by Flood, but Warde’s Kaitlin McKenna, one of five seniors-to-be playing for the perennial FCIAC contender, showed off her footwork down low to make consecutive shots and the Shelton deficit ballooned to 11-4.
Yakowicz banked home a five-footer after earning a rebound at the 10-minute mark, and Warde brought a new five on the floor.
Outnumbered 12-6 in players on this night, the locals matched Warde in every facet but putting the ball in the basket.
The score was 19-6 when Skowronski took a kickout pass from O’Connor and knocked down a 3-pointer.
Warde scored the next eight points, but Klonarasas’ shot from the corner beat the buzzer and the score was 27-11 at the half.
Shelton coach Matt Skowronski took advantage of the break to encourage his cagers, and they never once let the score dictate how they played the game.
“This is a great opportunity for these girls and they take advantage of it every week,” he said. “We have a good group of girls. Each week they go out and compete and we have about a dozen girls rostered and they all contribute.
“Tonight, we’ll be playing two games, as the varsity team is off.”
Shelton returned to the court for the second half of its game with Warde, before taking an hour off and defeating a combination team from Stratford and Amistad Academy, 43-27.
Flood’s hustle stopped a pair of transition opportunities by Warde early on in the second half, and Spitso buried a free throw.
Warde never stopped its clinic on how the game is played, and held Shelton off the board until Sarah Skowronski banked in a drive in traffic with seven minutes remaining.
O’Connor made a free throw and Sarah Skowronski another drive down the stretch.