WALLINGFORD – No. 20 Career exploded with a barrage of 3-pointers to open the third quarter and sink No. 12 Sheehan 51-34 in a CIAC Class M girls basketball quarterfinal on Monday night.
The Panthers used a 20-6 run to open the third quarter to advance to Friday night’s semifinals.
The decisive spurt occurred in the first five minutes of the third quarter. In those five minutes, Career hit five 3-pointers.
Carmen Rosemond hit three of them. She also had an old-fashioned three-point play during the decisive run.
Rosemond scored 12 of her 14 points and grabbed four of her six boards in the third quarter.
The Titans trailed just 21-18 at the half despite shooting 4-for-22 from the field in the opening 16 minutes.
Sheehan went 9-for-9 from the line in the second quarter to stay with the Panthers despite the ice cold shooting. Career was 8-for-25 from the floor in the first half.
Sheehan never led. The Titans tied the game at 16 with 1:46 left in the second quarter on a steal and three-point play by Sydney Hunt (5 points) and a pair of free throws by Lexi Ocasio (5 points).
Career led 11-5 after one quarter of play. Liv Robles capped a miserable offensive first quarter for the Titans with a 3-ball at the buzzer to get the home team back within six. Robles had eight boards in the first half and she finished with nine points.
Ciara Little got the visitors off to a fast start, scoring seven of her 15 points in the first quarter. Sheehan shot 2-for-15 in the first quarter.
“We just didn’t shoot the ball well,” Sheehan senior Carolyn Biel said. “We came out flat and never got it going. They hit some shots to start the third quarter. It’s important get some stops to start the third quarter and the girl hit two three’s from the corner and we were down right away and we never got momentum.”
The second half was all Career (16-9) as the Panthers were deadly from beyond the arc, led by the three 3-balls by Rosemond and two more by Little to break it open in a hurry.
“We had a certain game plan to stop certain girls on that team, but they stepped up and were hitting shots,” Ocasio said. “This is a big loss for the seniors. We had our heads high. We thought we could go to Mohegan Sun. For it to end on our home court, in my last time playing basketball probably forever, is tough.”
At the 3:09 mark of the third quarter, the visitors were up 41-24. They were shooting 7-for-10 from the field and 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. Sheehan (17-8) just coudn’t keep up.
“They came out and Rosemond hit some shots, including two three’s from the corner,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “We were slow closing out. The way we played them we were going to give some things up. We can live with them making some three’s, but once they have a lead they can spread things out and keep us from getting the ball and play the delay game.
“That put us at a disadvantage. We are not a good team chasing, although we did the last few games, but we weren’t playing the caliber of guards that Career has. We didn’t put our best foot forward. But I told the girls they gave me a heck of a ride and we went through something we will never forget.”
Career moves into the semis for the second year in a row. The Panthers now move on to play No. 9 Weston, which knocked off No. 1 Northwestern 51-38 on Monday night.
“They (Sheehan) don’t have many weakness out there. We wanted to speed them up because they aren’t used to playing really fast. We were able to do that,” Career coach Steve Bethke said.
The Titans split the two regular season meetings with Career. The Panthers won 50-48 in Wallingford on Jan. 18 and Sheehan avenged that defeat and earned a share of the SCC Housatonic division with a 47-39 win in the New Haven on Feb. 9.
Career leading scorer KyJae Hargrove added 12 points in Monday’s rubber match.
The loss ends a magical run for the Titans that included buzzer-beating wins over No. 21 Waterford and No. 5 Bethel last week.
“I can’t remember, in my career going back to youth basketball, two better wins right in a row,” said Biel, who had seven points. “I’m very grateful for those two wins. We wanted to go further, but we fell short. But those wins were very meaningful.”
Monday’s game marked the end of the Sheehan careers for Ocasio. Hunt and Biel.
“There’s no way we get to the quarterfinals without them,” Busillo said of his seniors. “We were fortunate that Lexi was able to come back (from injury). Sydney provided a great sport off the bench for us all year. That was a role that I saw for her and she accepted it and excelled. Biel brought experience to the floor. She made some big shots in the middle of our zone offense all year. She was a set of eyes for me on the floor through her experience.
“I’m so grateful of what they’ve done this year. You don’t win tournament games without good seniors.”