The Shelton High boys basketball team found itself trailing 8-0 just 1:44 into last Tuesday night’s key Southern Connecticut Conference Housatonic Division matchup at Cheshire High.
The Gaels never recovered, trailing by at least six points the rest of the night en route to a 74-54 loss to the Rams.
“You can’t spot a team that good, in their gym, that many points. We have to stop these slow starts,” said Shelton coach Brian Gardiner. “Once you get down that many points to that good of a team, it gets very difficult to battle all the way back.
“Effort-wise, we’re always going to play hard, but we’re not playing efficiently on offense and against good teams, they are going to exploit it.”
The Gaels rebounded on Thursday night, traveling to Wallingford and knocking off upset-minded Lyman Hall 48-34 in a Housatonic Division game to qualify for both the state and SCC tournaments. Shelton ended a long week with a 50-47 home loss to Guilford on Friday night.
The Gaels stand at 8-8 overall, 4-2 in the Housy, with four regular season games left. Shelton wants to finish the regular season with a winning record, which would mean taking at least three of its final four.
“That’s our number one goal, and we have it all out there for us,” said Gardiner. “We have to dig in and get it done.
For Shelton, which has not finished a season with a winning record since 2005-06 when it went 14-9, one key will be to play hard right from the opening tip. Shelton got behind by nine points minutes into its back-to-back Housy losses to Amity and Cheshire.
“It’s about coming out, right away and competing. You can’t go down, four, six, eight points against another team in their gym, especially a team of this caliber,” said Gardiner after the Cheshire loss.
Cheshire (11-4) did just that at the game’s outset, coming up with steals on Shelton’s first two possessions and turning them into fast-break lay-ups on the other end for a 4-0 lead 46 seconds into the game. The Rams would hit seven of their first nine shots in taking a 16-9 lead with 3:37 left in the first quarter.
Sophomore Casey Belade kept the Gaels within reasonable striking distance in the first quarter by scoring nine of his team-high 16 points. His pull-up jumper with two minutes left in the period cut the deficit to 18-11.
The Rams continued to shoot the ball well the first few minutes of the second quarter, using an 11-4 run to expand their lead to 14 points, 29-15.
Shelton’s best stretch of the night would come over the final 5:20 of the first half.
Patrick Murphy got things started with a trey and Christopher Pawlowski made a couple buckets in an 11-5 Shelton run to cut the Cheshire lead to single digits, 34-26, at halftime.
But that would be as close as the Gaels would get again. Cheshire began the second half much the same way it started the game, using a steal for an easy lay-up to help fuel a 7-0 run and expand its lead back to double-digits, 41-26, in the first two minutes of the third quarter.
The Gaels continued to play hard, but the best they could do was to cut the Ram lead down to 12 points, 47-35, late in the third quarter on a baseline floater by Belade.
Cheshire answered with another seven-point run spanning the late third and early fourth quarters to increase their lead to 54-35 and put the game out of reach.
Sophomore Matt Terrasi played well down the stretch for the Gaels, scoring eight of his 12 points.
Pawlowski contributed eight points for Shelton. Matthew Brouillette pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Shelton hosted Sheehan on Tuesday night. It travels to North Haven Friday night.