Boys basketball: Gaels overpower Lions

Brian Berritto scored 22 points to help Shelton defeat Foran High. — David G. Whitham photo

Brian Berritto scored 22 points to help Shelton defeat Foran High. — David G. Whitham photo

Jeff Stockmal and Brian Berritto scored 22 points apiece to power Shelton High to a 69-53 win over Foran High in an SCC matchup at Fraser Gymnasium on Friday night.

With the win, the Gaels (8-3) qualified for the Class LL state tournament, as well as the SCC playoffs, for the fourth consecutive season. Shelton had dropped three of its previous four games following a 6-0 start — including a 68-44 setback to rival Amity High on Tuesday night.

“Our goal isn’t just to make states, our goal is to get a home game,” Shelton High head coach Brian Gardiner said. “We’re just trying to get some momentum back as we start the second half of the year.”

Foran lost its fifth in a row.

Three of those losses were by a combined nine points, as the Lions (4-7) could not get untracked despite a cagey effort that saw them take a 20-19 lead after one.

“We knew going in who their guys were,” Lions’ head coach Ian Kirkpatrick said. “They kept us off-balance.”

Senior center Zach Tavitian was integral to Foran’s hot start, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the first half and blocking two shots.

“He’s very good. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s talented,” Gardiner said. “We knew he was going to be a problem. That’s why we started in zone. We were just seeing if we could clamp down on him… They also banged a lot of threes in the zone.”

Foran knocked down four 3-pointers in the opening stanza, with J.T. Lanese (twice), John Lickteig and Victor Rios connecting from beyond the arc.

However, the Lions failed to slow down Stockmal or either of the Berritto brothers, as David Berritto netted eight of his 12 markers in the first half.

A floater by Brian Berritto, followed by a putback from David Berritto, staked Shelton to a 23-20 lead with 5:41 left in the first half. The Gaels never trailed again, as a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Ryan Murphy extended Shelton’s edge to 37-30 at the half.

“We were concerned about this game,” Gardiner said. “Our guys responded well in the second half. We pushed the ball better all game. We haven’t been doing that lately. We got back to being ourselves I think. It was a good second half after getting pounded by Amity.”

A three-point play by Foran’s Brett Huber, another basket by Huber and a foul shot from Lanese narrowed the Lion gap to 39-36 at the 5:47 mark of the third.

Brian Berritto then erupted for nine straight points, including two 3-pointers, reestablishing a double-digit margin Shelton maintained the rest of the way.

“He’s awesome,” Gardiner said. “You wouldn’t think he was a sophomore… Offensively, he’s as good as they come as a second option.”

The Lions made one last push, trimming the deficit to 61-51 on Michael Sciuto’s spinning lay-in with 4:25 left to play.

Shelton countered with an 8-2 burst to close the contest, keyed by a jumper from Stockmal and a steal and layup from David Berritto.

“We struggled defensively down the stretch but credit Shelton, they were the better team,” Kirkpatrick said.

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