WALLINGFORD — The Sheehan girls basketball team suffered heartbreak on its home court Saturday afternoon in a 52-44 upset loss to Hamden in the quarterfinals of the SCC Tournament.
Down 22-15 at halftime, the second-seeded Titans rallied to tie things up in the fourth quarter, but could never get over the top in falling to the No. 7 Green Dragons.
“We tied it at 38; just couldn’t get a stop,” said Sheehan coach Mike Busillo. “They went on a little run after we tied it at 38. We had defensive breakdowns. We turned the ball over way too many times, especially in key spots when we were trying to come back.
“Hamden deserved to win and we got what we deserved.”
The Green Dragons improved to 13-9 and advance to face No 6 Shelton (17-5), a 49-47 winner Saturday over No. 14 Amity, in Monday’s conference semis at Jonathan Law.
Sheehan (18-4) looks ahead to the Class MM state tournament and a bid to return to the championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Senior point guard Asya Brandon led Hamden with 21 points. Junior center Caitlyn Hunt also scored 21 in leading Sheehan.
Rebecca Oberman-Levine added 15 points for Hamden. Maddi Larkin had nine points for Sheehan and Hayleigh Lagase added five.
Busillo his team was not ready for the physicality with which Hamden played.
“It took us into the second half to figure out how the game was being played. We didn’t do a good job of adjusting,” the Sheehan coach said. “That’s what happens in a tournament situation: You have a few bad minutes and you lose.”
“Yeah, definitely, it caught us off guard,” Larkin agreed. “We’re used to playing physical games, but I think they have five very physical
players, rather than just a few, so I think it was just a little off-putting.”
The first quarter was back and forth, and fittingly ended with the score tied at 8 when Hamden connected on a layup at the buzzer.
Hamden outscored Sheehan 14-7 during the second quarter and took a 22-15 lead going into halftime. Asya Brandon, Montsho Canton and Oberman-Levine all made 3-pointers for Hamden during the frame, while Hunt scored four of Sheehan’s seven points in the paint. The rest of Sheehan’s points came from the free throw line.
Sheehan had a strong third quarter, managing to cut Hamden’s lead to just two points going into the final quarter. Hunt scored five points, with Lagase and point guard Caitlyn Velez each adding two.
Sheehan and Hamden traded baskets to start the fourth quarter. Down by 3, Sheehan called a timeout with 5:45 left.
A layup by Hunt bounced several times around the rim before finally falling through to bring Sheehan to within one. A few possessions later, Brandon converted a floater and Hamden regained a three-point advantage.
On the next possession, Lagase sank a huge 3 to tie the game at 38-all. It was the first time Sheehan wasn’t trailing since the end of the first quarter.
Hamden regained a four-point edge. Larkin erased it from the foul line.
With the game tied at 42, Oberman-Levine split a pair of free throws to give Hamden the lead again and, equally crucial, Sheehan turned the ball over on its ensuing possession.
Hamden beat the press and White made the layup to give Hamden a three-point edge with 1:24 left. White was fouled on Hamden’s next possession and made both shots to extend the lead to five. Another Sheehan turnover led to a Hamden layup and a seven-point lead.
With just 44 seconds left and down by five, Sheehan began intentionally fouling. Velez and Larkin both fouled out and the deficit proved insurmountable.
Despite being the favorite and suffering an upset, Busillo didn’t think this loss will hurt his mindset of his players as they look to the state tournament.
“We lost a tough one last year in the (SCC) quarterfinals and then advanced to the state final, so we’ll take a day off, regroup and come back better the next time,” he said. “We have no choice. If we’re not mentally tough enough to get over this, then we’ve got bigger problems.”
“We’re good at just putting a loss behind us and moving on, so I think we’re just going to try and focus on the next one,” said Larkin. “We have big goals in mind and we know we have to work hard for it. We’re just going to put this behind us. We know how it feels and don’t want it to happen again.”
Larkin said a lot of Sheehan’s trouble on Saturday came offensively. Not helping was foul trouble for Velez, the floor general who keeps the Titans in sync.
“Our shots weren’t falling for a bit, we were doing things on offense that were out of character, just freaking out a bit,” Larkin said. “I think we just needed to calm down on offense, improve that and we would have been fine, but things happen.”