Boys basketball: Shelton loses to Masuk in overtime

There figures to be a learning curve for the Shelton High boys’ basketball team after graduating four-of-five starters from last year’s 14-9 team, including four-year player Jeff Stockmal and his 1,316 career points.

But that didn’t make losing Saturday night’s season-opener to Masuk 64-59 in overtime at David Strong Gymnasium in Monroe any easier.

“Our inexperience showed, unfortunately,” said Shelton coach Brian Gardiner. “We made so many little mistakes that just added up today that gave [Masuk] enough opportunities, and they’re eventually going to capitalize.”

Shelton had its opportunities to start the season off with a nice road win.

The Gaels led virtually the entire second half, including 46-40 with 6:35 left in the game after a Kevin Belden driving layup in traffic.

But things went downhill from there, as the Gaels would not score another field goal in regulation, and made just 4-of-7 free throws down the stretch.

“We couldn’t get over the hump of a [6-point] lead,” said Gardiner. “The execution was not good.”

Still, the Gaels answered a 10-3 Masuk run with one of two free throws from Brian Berritto with 26 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.

The Gaels struck first in the extra session on a Peri Basimakopoulos 3-pointer. They still led 57-55 with 2:35 left when Masuk’s Will Santee, the game’s leading scorer at that point with 24 points, fouled out.

But just when things started looking good for Shelton again, its inexperience and perhaps some fatigue kicked in, and this time cost the Gaels the game.

Shelton turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play, and the Panthers took advantage by scoring on a three-point play seconds later to take the lead for good at 58-57.

An air ball and turnover on Shelton’s next two possessions led to a Masuk field goal and free throw to make it 61-57 Masuk with 50 seconds left.

Berritto scored on a driving layup with 26 seconds left to make it a one possession game, 62-59.

The Gael defense forced a key turnover on the Masuk inbounds play, but Shelton missed on a pair of potential game-tying three-point tries before Masuk added two more free throws in the final seconds for the final margin of 64-59.

“They played hard,” said Gardiner of his team. “Their effort was enough to win. They just didn’t execute enough. [Playing hard] is not always going to be enough in the end, especially when you are in an even battle. Ultimately, you have to execute at the end, and [Masuk] executed a little bit better.”

Berritto, Shelton’s lone returning starter, scored 17 of his team-high 24 points in the first half as the Gaels led 25-22 at the intermission.

But between being a focal point of the Masuk defense as well as being fatigued after missing the start of the basketball preseason while playing for Shelton’s football team in the playoffs, Berritto’s impact after halftime was limited.

“He’s not quite in shape yet, unfortunately. We expect that coming out of football,” said Gardiner. “It takes you a couple weeks. He’ll get there. Another week and he should be alright.”

Basimakopoulos stepped up his offense in the second half, scoring 18 of his 20 points.

“I know he’s only a sophomore and he didn’t play last year because we were good enough, but he’s a really good player, and he’s a gamer,” said Gardiner.

Senior Kyle Davis added 11 for the Gaels, who also got solid play from Will Ciccone (6 rebounds), Matt Hunyadi (2 points, 5 rebounds) and Belden (2 points).

The Gaels have nearly a week to regroup before hosting North Haven Friday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

And Gardiner expects his young squad to be better prepared for the Indians after the learning experience against Masuk.

“The more games they play, the better they’ll get at those critical [moments],” said Gardiner of his Gaels.