Shelton switches up defense to play with SCC's best

Randy Mones drives to the basket against Amity High.

Randy Mones drives to the basket against Amity High.

Bill Bloxsom / Hearst Connecticut Media

Shelton boys’ basketball coach Brian Gardiner looked at the game tape following a 73-55 loss to Hillhouse on Feb. 12 and decided it was time to make a change. Not in players he would put on the court but with the team’s defensive philosophy.

“I decided we are going to be a straight man to man team,” Gardiner said. “We went over and over it with the guys, and it clicked. They got it and on defense we took off from there. We rebound very well. Honestly, our defense is first-rate. That is the reason why we’ve been able to be there with these teams like Wilbur Cross, Prep, Jonathan Law, Amity.”

Shelton held Career Magnet and Jonathan Law to 43 points in back-to-back games. The Gaels limited No. 9 ranked Wilbur Cross to 45. Prep, 7-1 on the season whose only loss came in overtime to Wilbur Cross, managed 47 points on Saturday. The downside to all this was only the Career game resulted in a victory.

Gardiner said: “We are struggling offensively and unfortunately most times come at key moments. The defense is so good, but we are just not where we need to be offensively.”

Shelton, 2-7 and averaging 46 points per game, trailed Prep by five points after three quarters. It took a one-point lead with under three minutes remaining before Prep rallied back to win 47-40.

“Prep has some of the best shooters in the SCC and my guys did a good job locking them up,” Gardiner said. “If we make a few more shots, not only in this game, then a close loss becomes a close win.”

The Gaels’ Vinny DeFeo scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Sophomore Siomar Rodriguez had 10 points and junior Randy Mones nine.

“Vin is doing a great job for us,” Gardiner said of his 6-foot-4 junior swingman. “Siomar is a sophomore and has been playing very well. He took the point guard job and hasn’t given it up. Randy has a motor, rebounds the ball, and you don’t worry about him going to the basket.”

Senior Gavin Rohlman, a 6-foot-4 forward, is a jack-of-all-trades.

“He is doing everything that we ask him on the court,” Gardiner said. “Gavin has a more prominent role handling the basketball and making good decision with it.”

Tim Hilser, a 6-foot sophomore guard, has earned a spot in the starting lineup. Ricky Feola, another sophomore, is the sixth man. Seniors Jay Cimmino and Robert Correia are point guards.

“The defense has been great to watch. It keeps us in games. To compete at this level, we told them that defense is how we are going to have to do it. We don’t give up layups. We try to force contested jumpers. If they hit contested jumpers, we tip our hat to them.”

AMITY 58, SHELTON 51

Gavin Rohlman was at his best in the first quarter when he handed out three assists and took down four defensive rebounds to pace Shelton to a 13-9 first-quarter lead.

DeFeo scored 7 of his 11 points in the period, including a 3-pointer.

Siomar Rodriguez scored eight points in the next canto, including a long-range shot to give Shelton a 25-24 lead at the half that featured seven-ties on the scoreboard.

Amity (1-2) was 9-for-10 from the foul line in the quarter and that kind of marksmanship would prove decisive after the break. The Spartans went on an 8-1 run to open the third quarter and took a 41-33 lead into the final period.

Shelton looked to rally with a Tim Hilser trey and a Randy Mones’ drive, but Amity’s Brett Chodis and Colby O’Connor answered every challenge with made 3-pointers.

DeFeo had a steal that led to a lean-in breakaway three-point play by Rodriguez (18 points) that drew Shelton within 44-40 early in the fourth.

Mones (18 points) scored 10 points in the final 5:36, but Amity maintained a five-point margin and closed out the game with a pair of free throws.

Shelton will visit Cheshire tonight and Amity on Monday.

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354