Girls basketball: Shelton ousted from SCC playoffs
Valentine's Day didn't particularly turn out to be the sweetest of experiences for Shelton High in its 62-41 Southern Connecticut Conference first-round playoff loss to Sheehan in Wallingford on Thursday.
"We're in this game for a half, being down by only nine points," said Shelton coach Joe Cavallaro. "But once they scored those first six points of the (third) quarter, we're in some trouble. That's when you have to start chasing, and in those situations, you have to gamble more."
The No. 11 seeded Gaelettes faced difficult one-on-one matchups inside, where the No. 6 Titans dominated.
Sheehan scored the first six points after the break and improved their lead to 37-22, before Shelton's Clarissa Pierre's put-back hoop stopped the run.
Shelton had a much easier time of it in the first half against a team that beat them twice during the regular season.
After falling behind by four, the Gaelettes rallied. They pulled even on a steal and subsequent hoop by Leya Vohra before going ahead 10-9, right before the quarter's end when Maggie Howard hit on a short jumper.
"I knew that they be prepared well," said Sheehan coach Mike Busillo. "Coach Cavallaro has a way of getting teams ready, so nothing that they did early on surprised me."
The Titans used a pair of long-range threes, one by Liv Robles and the other from Hayleigh Lagase to expand its advantage 20-12.
"It was a big moment for us and it ignited our offense," Busillo said. "We have two very good post players (in Robles and Lagase). It allows us to work the ball and eventually get it inside to Caitlyn Hunt.
Hunt proved to be a nightmare for Shelton's defenders. She scored 13 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 21 along with 14 rebounds.
Robles chipped in with 16 points and Lagase had 10.
"They're not only tall kids, they're big as well," Cavallaro said. "We didn't have a very good shooting night (14-of-52 for 26 percent), so they (Sheehan) kept packing it in on defense. It made it tough at times for us to get the ball inside."
Shelton did get a strong interior game from Pierre, a sophomore who led the team with 13 points and also had nine rebounds. Vohra was next in scoring with 11.
In making shots from the outside (Sheehan hit on five threes) and inside, the Titans, who will take on No. 3 seed Hillhouse on Saturday afternoon on their home court at 4:15, had a terrific shooting night. They hit on 18 of 39 attempts (46 percent).
Sheehan also converted 21-of-27 from the foul line (77 percent) where Shelton was 11 of 20 (55 percent).
Reem Abdel-Hack was the Gaels' leading rebounder with 13 as her team pulled down 43.
"This will be our fourth consecutive trip to the quarterfinals," Busillo said. "We'd like to go a little farther this time. We haven't reached the semis in four years."
For the Shelton players and Cavallaro, there will be some time off for the 10-11 team before beginning play in the Class LL state tournament.
"It will give us some time to practice some more and work on what didn't work tonight," Cavallaro said. "We'll just go on from here."