There are nights like last Tuesday night, when anything that can go wrong, does.
The Shelton High boys basketball team was down 11-0 three minutes into the game, 19-3 five-plus minutes into the game, and were never able to recover in falling 77-63 to host Cheshire High in a Southern Connecticut Conference Housatonic Division match up.
“We got off to a bad start, and it unfortunately took us out of our game plan,” said Shelton coach Brian Gardiner, whose team also lost to Amity of Woodbridge, 50-36, on Friday night, and stands at 5-6 overall, and 1-3 in the Housy.
Cheshire shot an incredible 14-of-21 from the floor to start the game, including 5-of-8 from three-point range.
“They’re a good team,” said Gardiner of the Rams, who are 6-4 overall and 3-1 in the Housy and has wins over traditional SCC powers Xavier and Career.
By the time Shelton scored its first point against Cheshire on a Christian Federici free throw 3:37 into the game, the Rams were already up 11.
Casey Belade notched the Gaels’ first field goal after seven misses one minute later, but Shelton was still down 14-3.
Cheshire added five straight points to take a 19-3 lead, and still led 22-6 with 2:17 left in the first quarter.
Shelton showed signs of life with a 7-0 run, highlighted by a Pat Murphy trey to cut the Cheshire lead to single digits, 22-13.
Cheshire answered with three straight points before Mike Davis hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull Shelton back within nine points, 25-16 after one quarter.
Cheshire scored the first four points of the second period.
Davis (13 points) had an answer, using the backboard to make a pair of shots and cut the Ram lead back to nine.
But Cheshire responded with back-to-back treys, extending its lead to 35-20 with six minutes left in the first half.
Cheshire cooled off, going 2-for-9 from the floor, and Shelton used the opportunity to get back within 40-30 at halftime.
Ben Malay had five points in the run and finished the night with 12 points.
Malay opened the second half with an 18-footer to pull the Gaels within eight points.
The Rams sandwiched two of their nine 3-pointers on the night around a Federici (11 points, six rebounds) bucket, then scored two more straight baskets to extend its lead to 50-34 midway through the third quarter.
Malay made a trey to stop Cheshire’s momentum and Davis added a driving layup to cut the Ram lead to 50-39, and keep Shelton’s faint hopes of a comeback alive.
But it did not last for long. The Cheshire offense continued to virtually score at will against the Shelton defense, always seeming to be at least a step or a pass ahead of the Gaels on this night.
The Rams went on a back-breaking 12-3 run spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters to go up by 20 points, 64-44, and put the game on ice.
If there was one bright spot for Shelton on an otherwise disappointing effort, it was the play of the reserves.
Down 22 points with four-plus minutes remaining, Gardiner exclusively played his bench the rest of the game, and his reserves didn’t disappoint.
Playing hard, aggressive basketball on both ends of the court, the Shelton bench outscored Cheshire 17-9 to end the game.
Belade led the way, scoring 10 of his team-high 14 points over that last stretch, including two 3-pointers.
The second of the two was set up by an assist from Chris Berritto.
Jake Camp made a pair of free throws and Matt Brouilette put back his own miss.
Sophomore Mark Piccirillo capped Shelton’s scoring with a 3-pointer, cutting Cheshire final margin of victory to 14 points, 77-63.
“They did what they’re supposed to do, did what we asked them to do,” said Gardiner of his reserves, who scored 21 of Shelton’s 63 points. “If you give one hundred percent, [good] things happen.”
On Friday night, the Gaels struggled offensively against division-leading Amity (9-2, 4-0) in a 50-36 loss.
Murphy was the only Gael in double-figures with 11 points, including three treys.
Malay and Belade each added eight.
Shelton hits the road this week looking to right the ship with games at Lyman Hall of Wallingford on Tuesday and East Haven on Friday.
The Gaels defeated both teams earlier this season.