Shelton seniors had unrivaled careers due to pandemic

Siomar Rodriguez, Anthony Cardoso, Dylan Camp and Vinny DeFeo faced unmatched challenges during their careers.

Siomar Rodriguez, Anthony Cardoso, Dylan Camp and Vinny DeFeo faced unmatched challenges during their careers.

Shelton High Athletics / Contributed photo

Shelton boys' basketball coach Brian Gardiner is a lifer. Varsity coach at Shelton for 14 years, an assistant for six years prior, Gardiner also played for the Gaels. He has been through the ups and downs. None more difficult than what this year’s senior group had to endure.

“These seniors battled through a lot. We talked about it. The tournament was canceled their sophomore year when we had a really good chance for a run to the state championship,” Gardiner said. “The fall before junior year, our two best players transferred out of state because they weren’t confident there would be a season. We had only a partial season. This year, there was still COVID. We had 10 of our 15 guys out in the first half of the year. Their three varsity seasons were dominated by this pandemic.”

Vinny DeFeo, Dylan Camp, Anthony Cardoso, Siomar Rodriguez each played a part in making this season special for Gardiner.

“Vinny was our everything player. He was three-year varsity. Vinny was sixth man two years ago with Peri Basimakopoulos’ group that was 18-5,” Gardiner said of his 6-4 swingman. “He was all-league player last year and All-SCC this season as well. Vinny averaged a double-double with 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, which in incredible because he was the focal point of other team’s defenses. He was a warrior.

“Dylan Camp (5-10 guard) shot the ball well in an increased role. He loved being part of Shelton basketball. He’s been part of this team for a long time, more than just his four years,” Gardiner said. “When he was little, Dylan was always shooting the ball during halftime and timeouts when his brother Jake was on the team. He’s always been invested in Shelton basketball.

“Anthony Cardoso (5-10 guard) has the biggest heart of anyone on the team. I was so proud of him. Anthony did not make it the last two years, but he kept getting better. He improved his strength and skill in the offseason and fought his way onto the team. Anthony started a few games, played well in other spots, and hustled all over the court. When he is in the game he goes as hard as he can. When he comes off the court, he cheers everyone else on. He did a nice job in his role.

“Siomar Rodriguez (5-11 guard) missed a lot of time this year. Last year he worked his way into a starting spot. This year he came off the bench because he had to miss so much time due to COVID,” Gardiner said. “It is hard to bounce back when you are out that long (seven days plus 10 more due to protocols). It’s not only conditioning, but players aren’t allowed in the gym while we are learning things. Siomar kept coming to practice and loved being here to help us.”

Matching strength of schedule

Shelton went 6-14. Ten of its games came against teams that advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament. Ricky Feolo, Jake Gigliotti, Tim Hilser and Jeff Wojtowicz, all juniors, got varsity experience.

“We had five juniors that contributed,” Gardiner said. “Ricky was our best 3-point shooter with 26. He made 37 percent, which is really, good. Jake had a good year. The ball was in his hands. We were pressured a lot by Notre Dame-West Haven, Fairfield Prep, West Haven. Jake had to handle that pressure. He showed he was able to do that against the best teams in the SCC.

“Timmy is the epitome of a hustle player. Defensively he is all over the place. He boxes out like a maniac. He takes away passing lanes,” Gardiner said. “Jeff is a real physical player. He is quiet, but extremely tough. He was an undersized center (6-1). He went against much taller player, but it didn’t faze him.

Gardiner will blend those juniors with a talented group of sophomores.

“They are in the same mold (no one over 6-1), so we have to team rebound and hustle,” he said. “We are hoping our guys get to play as much as possible. Hopefully they can have a more normal offseason and they can do more things.

“Ryan Miressi was able to play a lot this season. Cam St. Pierre started four games. Matt Sahagun is a good shooter. Michael Kinik missed the season with broken ankle suffered in the last football game. He is a good player and would have helped us a lot,” Gardiner said. “We are expecting big things from our sophomore class the next couple of years. There are a lot of kids who can contribute. We have got to figure out how they all fit together and accept their roles. With five spots, the more kids that contribute the better.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354