SHELTON – There was a lot to celebrate at Shelton High Murray Gymnasium Friday night.
Senior Peri Basimakopoulos scored a career-high 32 points, including the 1,000th point of his career, to lead the Gaels to a 68-52 victory over North Haven in a Southern Connecticut Conference crossover game.
Basimakopoulos was quick to credit his teammates.
“I started off the season struggling a lot. They picked me up, helped me through it,” said Basimakopoulos. “Lately, I’ve been making shots and [my teammates] find me. They know if I hit one, I can make 10 in a row. So, it was an all-around team effort.”
The victory improved Shelton’s record to 15-4 and marked the first time it has won 15 games in a season since the 2002-03 team went 20-4. North Haven is 8-11.
Shelton also clinched the SCC Quinnipiac Division title earlier this month, its first in 14 years.
Basimakopoulos became the eighth player overall, and third in three years, to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
“I am just proud of him,” said Shelton coach Brian Gardiner of Basimakopoulos. “He has a top-notch work ethic, top-notch kid, is a great leader. He’s just willing us to a lot of these victories. We’ve played some close games, and he just doesn’t want us to lose.”
And Shelton hasn’t lost much this season, particularly of late.
After an 0-3 start to the season, the Gaels have won 15-of-16 to earn a 3rd-seed in next week’s SCC Tournament, including a first-round home game Thursday night.
But Friday’s game didn’t start out the way Shelton wanted it to.
The Gaels found themselves trailing by as many as six points in the first quarter, and down 20-15 at the end of the period.
It might have been worse if not for Basimakopoulos, who scored Shelton’s first 12 points making five of his first six shots from the field.
“The energy and intensity weren’t there tonight for whatever reason at the beginning of the game,” said Gardiner of the rest of the team.
The defensive intensity stepped up in the second quarter — the Gaels limited North Haven (8-11) to 1-of-15 shooting and just two points — but the offense was still slow to get going.
With Basimakopoulos cooling down for the time being, Brian Belade picked up some of the slack.
The junior guard scored eight second-quarter points, including a scoop lay-up after navigating traffic in the lane with seconds left before intermission, to give Shelton a 27-22 halftime lead.
Gardiner let his Gaels know he wasn’t happy with the first half effort, and they responded.
“We talked about it at halftime, and they stepped up,” he said.
Basimakopoulos led the way, scoring 18 of his career-high 32 points in the second half as Shelton eventually coasted to the double-digit victory.
The captain brought the crowd to its feet by hitting a trey from the top of the arc with 2:26 left in the third quarter to mark his 1,000th-point scored. Basimakopoulos wasn’t done after the milestone basket.
North Haven continued to nip at Shelton’s heels, pulling to within seven points, 53-46, with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-1 forward helped Shelton answer with a 10-2 run to put the game away for good, including a scoop lay-up with 1:56 remaining to get him to a career-high 32 point.
Basimakopoulos made 12-of-24 shots on the night. He also grabbed six rebounds.
Belade added 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field.
Melvin Kolenovic scored seven points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, and Vinny DeFeo contributed eight points off the bench.
“I was happy with the second half,” said Gardiner, “But they have to do it for 32 minutes every game. We’re six days away from the playoffs, so we’ve got to step up our game.”
Shelton wraps up its regular season Tuesday night with a non-conference home game against Berlin. Game time is 7 p.m.
SHELTON 68, NORTH HAVEN 52
North Haven (8-11)
Bryce Charney 5 2-2 16 Justin White 1 0-0 2 Torray Armfield 2 1-1 5 David Christoforo 4 2-2 10 Joseph Vitale 2 0-2 4 Chris Hager 6 0-0 13 Carson Leyerzapf 1 0-0 2
Totals: 16 5-8 52
Brian Belade 7 5-7 19 Peri Basimakopoulos 12 3-4 32 Melvin Kolenovic 2 2-2 7 Gavin Rohlman 0 0-0 0 Vinny DeFeo 2 2-5 8 Mike Callinan 1 0-0 2
Totals: 24 12-18 68
North Haven 20 2 11 19 – 52
Shelton 15 12 17 24 – 68
3-pointers: NH-Charney (4), Hager. S-Basimakopoulos (5), DeFeo (2), Kolenovic