The Shelton High girls basketball team made full use of all 92 feet on the court to harass Guilford High into turning the ball over more often than the Indians would take a shot at the basket for the first 30 minutes at the Vincent J. Murray Gymnasium on Jan. 10.
But in the final two minutes of this SCC interdivisional game, coach Mary Piccirillo’s Gaelettes had to match up and play hard-nosed, half-court defense to secure their 38-36 victory.
Guilford, coming out of a timeout with 2:19 remaining, and down 35-34, had two empty possessions.
Shelton’s Casey Connor rebounded the first miss and made the front end of a one-and-one. Nicole Roberts’ 10th rebound gave the ball back to the locals, who turned the ball over.
Of Shelton’s eight defeats, one came in overtime (Sacred Heart Academy), one by two points (Norwalk) and another by three (Hyde Leadership).
So when the Indians’ Presley Altieri scored in transition off the giveaway to tie the game for the fourth time at 36 with 52 ticks on the clock, there was reason for Shelton to worry.
But O’Connor made a pair of free throws with 35 seconds remaining for the decisive points.
“Those were huge free throws from Casey, who is only a freshman,” Piccirillo said after her squad posted its first victory of the season. “Our defense played very well, created a lot of turnovers, and everyone stepped up.”
Guilford pressed the inbound play after Altieri’s tying bucket, but Brooke McCone saved a turnover at half court, and O’Connor was soon fouled.
She made both free throws and Guilford missed three shots down the stretch, including a running 3-pointer by Altieri from 40-feet out at the buzzer.
“This is the first time I felt that we played as a team from the start to the moment it ended,” Piccirillo said. “We needed a win and we like the feeling. Now we’re in search of more of that feeling.”
McCone scored 12 points, followed by Roberts (eight), Jessica Wilm (five) and O’Connor (five).
Altieri scored 19 points to lead the Indians (3-6).
Shelton took a 13-7 lead after one period by forcing 14 Guilford turnovers. The Gaelettes were 6-for-9 from the floor.
Wilm accounted for two buckets and Colleen Flood another off a Sarah Skowronski assist.
McCone scoring in transition on an outlet pass from Roberts and then curled behind a Sivan Tepper screen to take a pass from Skowronski and beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer.
“Brooke is our shooter,” Piccirillo said. “She is not afraid to take the big shot and I tell her every day we don’t want her to give the ball back.”
The pace of the game caught up with Shelton in the second quarter, when it turned the ball over 10 times to seven for Guilford.
Skowronski made two free throws late, but the Gaelettes made only 1-of-7 shots (by McCone off the dribble) and their lead was shaved to 17-15 at the half.
Guilford kept overplaying the first pass to keep Shelton off stride, and the Indians tied the game at 20 and then 22.
Roberts got inside and took a pass from Skowronski for a hoop and a 24-22 lead at 1:43 of the third, rebounded a miss, and Wilm drove through traffic for a 26-22 lead.
Altieri banked in a 10-footer, but McCone answered with a jumper from the corner and Shelton led 28-24 with eight minutes to play.
Wilm found Roberts inside to open the final frame, she was fouled and made both free throws.
Guilford scored the next two buckets, before McCone took Wilm’s kickout pass and buried a 3-pointer to extend Shelton’s advantage to 33-28.
It was 35-30 after Connor scored off an inbounds pass from McCone with 3:50 remaining to set up the frenzied final minutes.
Shelton lost to Lyman Hall, 63-35, in Wallingford on Jan. 7.
Wilm scored nine points against the 7-1 Trojans. Roberts scored seven and Skoronski six.
Shelton will host Sheehan of Wallingford (4-6) on Friday night at 7.