NORTH HAVEN — Down by two points against Shelton Saturday afternoon with 6 seconds remaining, North Haven boys’ basketball coach Peter Civitello had two plays drawn up with two different options. One of those options was Jack Steinman.
Falling back as he lofted a long-range shot, the freshman cleanly drained a 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Indians to a thrilling 44-43 comeback victory over Shelton at North Haven High.
Steinman’s buzzer beater helped the Indians rally from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit and improved their record to 4-14 with their second straight win.
“I needed to hit a 3 today,” Steinman said after finishing with nine points, all in the second half. “I just let it go. I knew how much time was left on the clock.”
For Shelton, the loss is a tough one as coach Brian Gardiner’s team appeared to be on its way to improving its seeding in both the SCC and state tournaments. Instead, 5-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter doomed the Gaels (9-9).
“We let them hang around early,” Gardiner said. “They gave us some different looks that we don’t normally see, but we went over it. The kid was fully guarded on that shot. He hit a tough shot.
“We didn’t hit our free throws. We needed one shot at the end and we didn’t get it.”
The Gaels entered the fourth quarter with a six-point lead and extended the margin to 35-28 after Matt Terrasi drained a bucket.
The Indians then started their comeback with a 6-0 run. With North Haven’s defense turning up the pressure, the Gaels could not hold on to the ball.
Corey Frost started the run with a free throw, then Matt DeFrancesco scored the next five points. DeFrancesco’s basket and free throw on the play cut the deficit to 35-32 before another bucket by DeFrancesco got the Indians within 35-34.
“This season has been sour for us,” Civitello said. “It has not gone as planned. But, these kids keep fighting. They have a lot of heart. The older kids keep battling and leading and the younger kids are learning as they play.”
The Gaels had plenty of opportunities to seal the contest in the final 3 minutes of the fourth quarter but were unable to do so, connecting on only 4-of-8 shots from the line in that time span.
Shelton’s best opportunity to put some distance between the teams came in the final 30 seconds after North Haven’s Josh Lopez missed a 3-pointer, which would have put the Indians ahead. The Gaels missed at the free-throw line, setting up Steinman’s heroics.
“We drew up two plays,” Civitello said of the winning basket. “We had Josh Lopez and we had Jack on the wing. That’s a nice little highlight he will have as a freshman.”
Frost had the Indians in the game early as his 3-pointers gave North Haven an 8-7 lead in the first quarter and a 14-13 advantage in the second.
The Gaels responded with the last five points of the first half, including a basket by Justin Lynch and two free throws by Patrick Murphy for a 20-17 advantage.
“I thought our defense played really well,” Gardiner said. “They threw some different looks at us and we tried to adjust. We have to score the ball better.
“A win today would have given us a higher SCC seeding. It did not happen.”
Mike Davis led Shelton with 13 points, while Murphy finished with 10 for the Gaels, who connected on just 11 field goals, to go along with a pair of 3-pointers.
DeFrancesco led North Haven with 14 points and Frost finished with 13, including three 3-pointers.
NORTH HAVEN 44, SHELTON 43
(at North Haven)
Shelton 9 11 12 11 – 43
North Haven 8 9 9 18 – 44
Christian Federici 2 2-4 6, Matt Brouillette 2 1-2 5, Patrick Murphy 3 2-2 10, Mike Davis 4 4-5 13, Justin Lynch 1 2-4 4, Matt Terrasi 2 1-2 5. Totals: 14 12-19 43
NORTH HAVEN (44)
Matt Defrancesco 5 1-5 11, Patrick Mikos 1 0-0 2, Jack Steinman 4 2-6 12, Josh Lopez 1 1-2 4, Corey Frost 4 2-4 13, Rob Brock 0 0-1 0, Chris Watson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 6-18 44
3-point goals: Shelton 3 (Murphy 2, Davis 1); North Haven 6 (Steinman 2, Lopez 1, Frost 3); Records: North Haven 4-13.