WALLINGFORD — Welcome to Round 2 of the Sheehan/Lyman Hall rivalry on the hardwood.
The Titans will be looking to complete a season sweep when they cross town Friday night to take on host Lyman Hall at the Frederick Schipke Gymnasium.
Three weeks ago, on Jan. 3, Sheehan took both ends of Round 1 at home. The Titan boys won the opener 75-40 and the girls came from behind to take the nightcap 40-37.
Tonight, the order flips around. The girls game starts the night at 5 p.m. The boys follow at 7 p.m.
The girls contest, which is also a cancer awareness “Pink Game,” should be a tight one. Both Wallingford squads are red hot and have already qualified for the postseason.
The LH girls are 8-4 and have won six of their last seven.
“When we lost the first game against Sheehan it gave us motivation to get better,” said Lyman Hall coach Tom Lipka.
Since that Jan. 3 game, Lyman Hall’s scoring improved greatly behind the emergence of junior center Natalie Panagrosso. She’s averaging a team-high 9.6 points to go along with 4.5 rebounds.
Senior Hailey Bruneau has filled the stat sheet with 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game. Junior Brianna Mik (8.3 ppg.) has also been a reliable scorer.
“We are starting to get more scoring; we are getting out of the 40’s,” Lipka said. “Natalie has been picking us up offensively. Hailey has been scoring. She had three 3’s against Cheshire. We have had some very good offensive games lately.”
The Trojans are also striving to finish games. In the first meeting with Sheehan, LH let the lead get away when Sheehan went on an 11-0 run over the last 3:12.
“We learned we have to do a better job at the end of the game,” Lipka said. “We missed too many foul shots and had too many turnovers. The last two minutes cost us. We have to play a full four quarters to beat Sheehan.”
Sheehan is 9-3. The Titans are led in scoring by their dynamic front court of Caitlyn Hunt and Maddi Larkin. Hunt, a 5-foot-11 junior, averages 16 points and eight boards. Larkin, a senior captain, averages 10 points and eight rebounds.
Juniors Hayleigh Lagase (5 rebounds) and Caitlyn Velez (6 rebounds) both register eight points per per game. Lagase is a wing and Velez is the point guard.
“At this part of the year, you try to concentrate more on yourself as much as you can,” said Sheehan coach Mike Busillo. “We know Lyman Hall’s personnel and they know our personnel pretty well. We expect what it’s been like the last few years: a close game that comes down to who makes plays at the end of the game.”
Busillo said he would like his team to get off to a stronger start. Sheehan started the first meeting against LH shooting 1-for-20 from the field.
“I would like to improve on the backboards,” Busillo added. “We have to be a better rebounding team. We physically have to do a better job rebounding.
“For the most part, we’ve been a pretty good team defensively in the half court. At times we pressure teams and have success. You always want to be a good defensive team, and we are headed in that direction.”
The boys game features the 8-2 Titans against the 1-8 Trojans.
Sheehan coach Joe Gaetano said the Titans are ready for Friday.
“We treat it like it’s the next game on our schedule,” Gaetano said. “Lyman Hall is a rivalry game. The years have proven it’s a different kind of game and we will prepare for it.”
Gaetano said he wants to see his team play better on the defensive end.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Gaetano said. “We’ve given up too many points. We have to work on our defense. Some games we have given up 80 points. That’s one of the things we have to work on regardless of who we play.”
On the other end of it, the Sheehan offense has been potent.
Junior Jack McDonnell (18 ppg.) leads Sheehan in scoring. He’s followed by seniors Garrett Molampy (17 ppg.), Kris Jackson (15), Arthur Cordes (12) and Tyler Carmen (7).
“We are making shots,” Gaetano said. “Our defense leads to a lot of points. Against East Haven, we turned the over 11 times in the first half and 20 times overall. We are shooting the ball well. We are finding good shots and moving it around. Everyone is involved.”
For Lyman Hall, it’s been a learning season with many players earning their first varsity minutes and starts. Ty Voisine is the Trojans’ most consistent player. The junior is leading the team in scoring at 11 points a game and, as the starting point guard, averages three assists.
Junior Jayden Collingham has started the last four games. He had a career-high 18 points in Lyman Hall’s lone win, which came last Friday at Foran. Collingham followed with nine points in Tuesday’s loss to Daniel Hand.
“He’s an aggressive player who can score in a variety of ways,” Lyman Hall coach Rob Ruys said. “I can see his confidence growing daily.”
Evan Smith is another junior who has cracked the starting lineup and emerged as a 3-point threat. Brady Campbell and Justin Hackett are sophomores logging quality minutes.
First-year varsity player Ty Parente is a senior big man for the Trojans. He missed four games earlier this season due to injury, including the Jan. 3 meeting with Sheehan.
Senior guard Jack Vegliante is coming off of a strong game against Hand. Freshman guard Jordan Elliott will log his third career start on Friday and has impressed already.
“Jordan Elliott is a freshman whose skill, basketball IQ and maturity are beyond his years,” Ruys said. “The kid can flat-out play. Everyone pays attention to guys who can score, but what I really admire in him is his desire and effort on the defensive end. You don’t come across to many freshmen who are as well rounded as he is.
“Shakespeare Rodriguez and Jack Vegliante are both senior captains,” Ruys added. “S.P. Pragano is a senior guard/forward who plays tough defense and is a good passer and is capable of knocking shots down from perimeter.”
Ruys said his team is looking forward to the challenge against a strong Sheehan team.
“We are practicing better and we are playing better; we are a work in progress,” Ruys said. “I feel we are getting better every day.”