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Shelton expects to play a lot of tough games in the Southern Connecticut Conference.

The season opens for coach Brian Gardiner and his Gaels Thursday, when Sheehan visits at 7 p.m.

“We will be in the hunt to win our division (Amity, Guilford, Career, Shelton and Branford), said Gardiner, whose team went 13-10 and advanced to the state tournament quarterfinals in his 11th season at the helm. “We have the potential to be a really good team if everyone works hard and executes.”

Peri Baskimakopoulos, Brian Belade and Melvin Kolenovic will by the lynchpins to a successful campaign.

“Peri was All-SCC second team last season when he averaged 14.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and made 60 three-pointers,” Gardiner said of his 6-1 guard and senior captain. “He is receiving college interest from multiple schools. Peri is one of the best shooters in the SCC and has a chance to get to 1,000 points for his career this season.

“At 6-foot-3, Brian is a quick guard who gets to the basket well and can score from inside and out. He scored 10.2 points and had 3 rebounds and two assists per game as a sophomore. Brian is already getting college interest and is probably one of the top players in our conference.

“Melvin has improved his offensive game a lot since last season and will now be more of a focal point on offense. He's a great shot blocker at 6-foot-8 and should be one of the best players in the SCC this year as a junior. Last year he averaged better than 6 points and rebounds per game, and that is getting colleges interested.”

Gavin Rohlman, Robert Correia and Vinny DeFeo are looking to fill out the starting lineup.

“Gavin is a 6-foot-3 athletic forward who came off the bench for us in the state tournament last season as a sophomore,” Gardiner said. “He is a good passer.

Robert is a 5-foot-9 junior guard who handles the ball well and is a good on the ball defender. He also has some varsity experience.

“Vinny at 6-foot-2, shoots the ball well from the perimeter. A sophomore guard, he has long arms and is a good defender and shoots the ball well from the perimeter.

“I like our bench. Randy Mones is a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward. He is a strong defender and rebounder who plays hard. Mike Callinan is a 5-foot-11 senior guard. He is a good defender and has a fine understanding of the game. Logan McLeod is a 5-foot-11 junior guard. He is a really good shooter and can provide instant offense off the bench.”

Gardiner sees Hillhouse, Notre Dame, West Haven, Wilbur Cross and Sheehan as the top five teams in the SCC. After that, it could be Shelton, Career and Hamden or Hand.

“There are a lot of great players in our league,” Gardiner said, pointing out Zach LaPut from Notre Dame, Ben Carrol from Notre Dame, Tazhon Daniels from Hillhouse, Cinceree Lash from Hillhouse, Diontae Eady from Law, Darius Esdaile from Wilbur Cross, Jordan Berrios from West Haven, Garrett Molampy from Sheehan, Jack McDonnell from Sheehan, Heston Tucker from Hamden, Max Manjos from Fairfield Prep, Peri Basimakopoulos from Shelton, Stephen Kohs from Xavier and R.J. Hager from North Haven along with the Gaels’ Belade, Kolenovic and Basimakopoulos.

“Our team centers around Basimakopoulos, Belade and Kolenovic, who form a very good trio. How guys fill the roles will be important. We will play a lot of 50-50 games so defense and execution will be important. We want to improve as the year goes on so that we will be at our best in the playoffs.

“We start the year with strong opponents in Sheehan, Masuk and New Canaan. We will most likely be without Belade for the first two games with a badly sprained ankle. We hope that he will be ready to go for the Holiday tournament that starts on Dec. 27. The other guys will have to step up while he is out.”

Shelton visits Masuk Saturday at 7 p.m.

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354