WALLINGFORD — Sheehan basketball player Jack McDonnell doesn’t go on many shooting droughts, but he was in a brief cold spell in the second half on Thursday night against Shelton.
But during a timeout late in the game, McDonnell looked over to teammate Brett Stasiewski on the bench and said, “I’m going to hit the next one.”
After Shelton’s Peri Basimakopoulos canned a clutch 3-pointer to put the Gaels up 63-62 with 1:10 on the clock, it was McDonnell’s turn. The junior guard swished a trey at the top of the key to put Sheehan on top for good in a 70-63 victory.
“As soon as I let the ball go, I knew it was good,” McDonnell said. “It was just perfect. We got fouled the next time down and Kris (Jackson) gets a rebound and the game was pretty much over from there. This was a huge win for us.”
The Titans went 5-for-6 from the line in the closing minutes to close out the victory that improved their record to 7-2.
McDonnell scored a game-high 22 points. Garrett Molampy and Arthur Cordes added 17 for Sheehan. Tyler Carmen also was in double figures with 11 points.
Shelton was paced by the three-headed monster of Brian Belade (19 points), Basimakopoulos (18) and 6-foot-8 center Melvin Kolenovic (18).
It was Sheehan’s second win over Shelton (5-4) this season. The Titans had a 62-44 victory in Shelton on opening night. However, the Gaels played that night without Belade, a talented 6-foot-3 junior swingman.
Sheehan was hurt by close losses last season, a trend the Titans are looking to buck this year. This clutch win comes on the heels of a 80-79 loss in double overtime to Xavier at home on Monday.
“I’m really proud of my kids tonight,” Sheehan coach Joe Gaetano said. “We lost a tough game the other night that we felt we shouldn’t have lost. We did some things in the fourth quarter that led to our defeat.
“Tonight, we showed some perseverance. We defended well in the last three or four possessions. They really rose to the occasion. I’m really happy.”
Gavin Rohlman tied the game 60-60 with 2:01 left. Rohlman scored on an easy deuce set up by Basimakopoulos.
Molampy made an move in the paint on Sheehan’s next possession, went to the line and drained both to put Sheehan on top 62-60 with 1:37 to go.
Following a Sheehan timeout, Basimakopoulos canned his trey from the top of the key to give Shelton a 63-62 edge with 1:10 on the clock.
It took McDonnell seven seconds to take that lead back at 65-63 and he showed some emotion after the ball fell through the net.
“He’s a good shooter,” Gaetano said. “My shooters have the green light, for the most part. He stepped into that shot. He’s a clutch player.”
Shelton went to the line on its next possession, but missed both free throws. Jackson grabbed the rebound, Molampy was fouled with 35 seconds left and hit the front end of the 1-and-1.
Jackson kept the rebound of the second shot alive in the paint and, eventually, McDonnell ended up with the ball and was fouled. He drilled both free throws as Sheehan went up 68-63 with 31 seconds left.
Following a Shelton miss, McDonnell hit two more free throws with 18 seconds left to account for the final score. The win stalled a five-game winning streak for the Gaels.
This game was tight throughout. Sheehan held a 19-18 advantage after the first quarter. Shelton scored the first five points of the game and Sheehan countered with a 12-2 run. McDonnell scored five straight Sheehan hoops during that run. Cordes added a trey and a layup.
Sheehan led by as many as nine late in the second quarter. Belade sparked a 7-0 Gaels’ uprising to close out the final 2:28 after the Titans took their biggest lead of the game to that point, 34-25, on a Cordes layup.
The Titans had opened the second quarter with a quick 6-0 run sparked by Molampy’s emphatic two-handed slam on a breakaway off a steal.
Sheehan defensive pressure began to pay some dividends late in the second quarter. Tyler Carmen had back-to-back transition hoops off Gales’ turnovers.
“You don’t always read about what Tyler Carmen does in the box score, but he had five steals and three assists and a lot of deflections,” Gaetano said. “He does all of the little things you need to win.”
Cordes took a charge to cause one of the Shelton’s 19 first-half turnovers. The Titans led 34-32 at the half.
The third quarter was a stanza or runs. Sheehan had two 6-0 runs and Shelton had 11-0 and 4-0 spurts. It was the Gaels who held a 47-46 advantage after three quarters.
Carmen had a steal and a layup to finish Sheehan’s initial 6-0 run that put the Titans up 40-32. Belade and Kolenovic book-ended Shelton’s 11-0 run as the Gaels went up 43-40 midway through the third.
Jackson countered with an acrobatic close-range shot while slashing through the lane and McDonnell put in a baby hook from the top of the lane.
Carmen took a big charge for the Titans early in the fourth quarter and McDonnell hustled to chase down his own miss to set up a Cordes trey midway through the fourth that broke a 53-53 tie.
“We knew this one was going to be a battle and that’s what we got,” Shelton coach Brian Gardiner said. “It’s a tie game and they miss a shot and they get the rebound and they get it out to Cordes and he hits a three. If we get a rebound, we get a chance to go ahead.
“Then we didn’t box out against Jackson. Those are the little things that are the difference between winning and losing in games against good teams.”
The first three-and-a-half quarters set up dramatic final minutes of the fourth quarter when Sheehan performed perfectly down the stretch.
“We played well in the face of adversity,” Gaetano said. “Those 50-50 balls win games. That’s what good teams have to do to win. You have to take advantage of that and tonight we did and I’m pretty happy with it.
“I told the kids they grew up a little tonight. It’s baby steps. We lost to two good teams. We think we are good. We have to prove it.”