Boys basketball: Poor shooting limits options

The Shelton High boys basketball team got off to the start it wanted when coach Brian Gardiner’s Gaels traveled to East Haven on Friday night.

Scoring on 4-of-5 possessions, Shelton traded baskets with the Easties. Then the Yellow Jackets started making 3-pointers, the rim became an inhospitable place for Gael attempts, and East Haven posted a 66-53 victory.

“We faced a man (defense) in the first four minutes and got to the basket each time,” Gardiner said. “Then East Haven went to the zone, as most teams do, and we had to make shots (from the perimeter). We were 1-for 12 on three-point shots in the first half. We need to remedy that, because it puts too much pressure on the defense.”

Brian Belade (16 points) opened the game with a runner in the lane and Brian Berritto (23 points) scored on a drive.

Will Ciccone patiently waited for the second cutter in the Gaels’ motion offense and found Peri Basimakopoulos for a scoop and hoop.

Ciccone’s defensive rebound an on target outlet pass led to a Berritto layup and an 8-7 lead at the at the four-minute mark.

East Haven (5-3) held the Gaels (1-8) scoreless the rest of the period for a 13-6 advantage. Shelton ran its offense, didn’t force any shots, but couldn’t put the ball in the basket. The Easties’  Ryan Spano had eight points in the stanza.

The Easties, led by Ed Popolizio’s seven points, doubled up the Gaels in the second stanza to take a 26-16 lead into the half. Belade hit a 3-pointer, Kevin Belden and Basimakopoulos had baskets and Berritto and Belade had assists.

“We had the looks we wanted, the kids played hard, we just couldn’t score,” Gardiner said. “They (East Haven) shoot well, they like to drive and kick the ball back out. Being down by double digits puts pressure on the defense to get stops. They put in their three’s when they were open or hand a hand in their face.”

In the third quarter, the Gaels began to aggressively shoot the ball after the first good look came their way and twice made it a two-possession game.

Kyle Davis and Ciccone each had two assists, as the offense was well oiled.

Belade converted a pair of 3-pointers, including a catch-and-shoot from the wing off a pass from Belden.

Berritto tallied twice, one on a nifty move in the lane.

Shelton, however, would get no closer than a six-point deficit with three minutes left in the third.

Coach Ricky Narracci’s Easties kept finding an open shooter, and Nate Furino (twice), Popolizio, Tristan Punzo and Gabe Longley drained 3-pointers. Furino  had four treys, each one more timely.

East Haven led 48-34 after three quarters.

Shelton upped its defensive pressure and Berritto scored 11 points in the period, but again East Haven had offensive answers. Popolizio was 8-of-9 from the foul line and finished with 26 points.

“I like our players, I like the way they work and the way they play together,” Gardiner said. “The practices and the attitude is good. We need better results come game time.”

After a game with Amity High (6-2), Shelton will host Foran High (4-5) in the Coaches vs. Cancer game at the Murray Gymnasium on Friday night at 7.