Season to remember for Shelton Gaels
While the Gaels hope there is a lot more basketball to be played this season, Shelton has already put together its best season in a long time.
After an 0-3 start, the Gaels have won 15-of-16 and earned themselves a 3rd-seed in next week’s SCC Tournament, including tonight’s first-round home game.
Most importantly, Shelton clinched the SCC Quinnipiac Division title earlier this month with a perfect 8-0 mark, its first divisional title since 2005-2006 when the Gaels went 5-3 in the old Housatonic Division to tie Sheehan for the title.
Shelton’s last solo title came in 2004-2005.
“That’s always our number one goal is to win the division,” said coach Brian Gardiner. “We’re proud of that. We worked hard for it. But our approach is, we’re one game at a time. So, we’re trying to just keep doing what we’re doing, and not think too much about what’s happened, and not think too far what’s ahead, and just play the next game. But it was nice to win the division for the first time in a long time.”
There was a lot to celebrate at Shelton High School’s Murray Gymnasium Friday night.
Senior Peri Basimakopoulos scored a career-high 32 points, including the 1,000th point of his career, to lead the Gaels to a 68-52 victory over North Haven in a Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) crossover game.
The victory improved Shelton’s record to 15-4 and marked the first time the Gaels have won 15 games in a season since the 2002-03 Shelton team went 20-4.
Basimakopoulos became the eighth Shelton boys’ basketball player overall, and third in three years, to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
Friday’s game didn’t start out the way Shelton wanted it to.
The Gaels found themselves trailing by as many as six points in the first quarter, and down 20-15 at the end of the period.
The deficit might have been larger if not for Basimakopoulos, who scored Shelton’s first 12 points, making five of his first six shots from the field.
“The energy and intensity weren’t there tonight for whatever reason at the beginning of the game,” said Gardiner of the rest of the team.
The defensive intensity stepped up in the second quarter — the Gaels limited North Haven (8-11) to 1-of-15 shooting and just two points — but the offense was still slow to get going.
With Basimakopoulos cooling down for the time being, Brian Belade picked up some of the slack.
The junior guard scored eight second quarter points including a scoop lay-up after navigating traffic in the lane with seconds left before intermission to give Shelton a 27-22 halftime lead.
Gardiner let his Gaels know he wasn’t satisfied with the first half effort, and they responded.
“First half, we played hard, but we didn’t play as hard as we could have. Coach let us hear it,” said Basimakopoulos. “Second half, we came out and just went as hard as we could. We ended up getting the win against a team that always battles us. It was just a great all-around team win.”
Basimakopoulos led the way, scoring 18 of his career-best 32 points in the second half as Shelton eventually coasted to the double-digit victory.
The captain brought the crowd to its feet by hitting a trey from the top of the arc with 2:26 left in the third quarter to mark his 1,000th-point scored.
Basimakopoulos wasn’t done after the milestone basket. North Haven continued to nip at Shelton’s heels, pulling to within seven points, 53-46, with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The 6’1” forward helped Shelton answer with a 10-2 run to put the game away for good, including a scoop lay-up with 1:56 remaining to get him to a career-high 32 points.
Basimakopoulos made 12-of-24 shots on the night. He also grabbed six rebounds.
Belade added 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field.
Melvin Kolenovic scored seven points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
Vinny DeFeo contributed eight points off the bench and Gavin Rohlman pulled down six rebounds.
“I was happy with the second half,” said Gardiner, “but they have to do it for 32 minutes every game. We’re six days away from the playoffs, so we’ve got to step up our game.”
Shelton will wrap up its regular season Tuesday with a 7 p.m. non-conference home game against Berlin.
SHELTON 68, NORTH HAVEN 52
North Haven 20 2 11 19 - 52
Shelton 15 12 17 24 - 68
North Haven (8-11)
Bryce Charney 5 2-2 16 Justin White 1 0-0 2 Torray Armfield 2 1-1 5 David Christoforo 4 2-2 10 Joseph Vitale 2 0-2 4 Chris Hager 6 0-0 13 Carson Leyerzapf 1 0-0 2
Totals: 16 5-8 52
Brian Belade 7 5-7 19 Peri Basimakopoulos 12 3-4 32 Melvin Kolenovic 2 2-2 7 Gavin Rohlman 0 0-0 0 Vinny DeFeo 2 2-5 8 Mike Callinan 1 0-0 2
Totals: 24 12-18 68
3-pointers: NH-Charney (4), Hager. S-Basimakopoulos (5), DeFeo (2), Kolenovic