WALLINGFORD — A year ago, Sheehan was the surprise of the CIAC Class M girls’ basketball tournament, reaching the finals as the 13th-seed at Mohegan Sun before losing to Cromwell.
The Titans are halfway towards going back, this time in Class MM, after recording a 53-39 victory over St. Joseph in the second round Friday night. Sheehan (20-4) will host 11th-seeded East Haven at 7 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals. East Haven rallied to beat East Catholic, 55-50, Friday night.
“That’s the goal to get there again,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “We know that’s out there, but we still take it a step at a time.”
But it took three minutes for the third-seeded Titans to get going offensively. After 14thseeded St. Joseph jumped on top, 5-0, on a three-pointer by Veronica Lubas and a bucket by Erika Stephens, Sheehan put a lot of defensive pressure on the ball throughout the entire court. That led to the Titans being able to force bad shots and turnovers by the Cadets.
Meanwhile, Sheehan scored the next seven points, five of them by Caitlyn Hunt (game high 18 points) to grab a 7-5 lead with 3:31 left in the opening quarter.
“It was 5-0 and we had to focus right there,” Hunt said. “We got our momentum and it took off from there.”
After a Stephens’ runner in the lane ended a three-and-a-half-minute drought by St. Joseph and deadlocked things at 7-7, Sheehan went on a 7-0 run to close out the quarter with Molly Smolenski nailing a trey.
— Dave Phillips (@davephillips41) March 7, 2020
Sheehan was able to keep on adding to the lead in the second quarter as St. Joseph struggled from the floor, especially in the paint. The Cadets were held to just one basket in the first 5:52 of the period.
“They came up with a great game plan,” St. Joseph coach Chris Lindwall said. “After it was 5-0, we struggled from the field and we must have missed the next 10 shots.”
Meanwhile, Hunt took over inside, scoring six points in a three-minute sequence that gave the Titans their biggest lead of the first half, 25-12, with 2:23 to play until intermission. Sheehan held a 29-17 edge at the break.
“They were really aggressive tonight, so I knew I had to come out even more aggressive than they were,” Hunt said. “I tried as hard as I could to post up, make a quick move on them and put it in.”
A basket by Caitlyn Velez to open the third quarter pushed Sheehan’s lead to 32-17, but five straight points by Rahmia Johnston allowed the Cadets to cut the lead to just 10 points with 4:18 left in the period. However, a three-point play by Hunt gave Sheehan a 39-25 edge with 2:10 remaining in the third.
St. Joseph refused to go away, going on a 6-1 run with McKenna Hedman nailing a three from long range to cut its deficit to single digits, 40-31, with 5:43 to play.
“We were focusing on two stops, two baskets,” Lindwall said. “But we were trying to make the 10-point play. We just don’t have enough offense to chase.”
From there, the Titans went on an 8-0 run, mostly from the free throw line to ice things.
“It’s really nice. We’ve worked really hard to try and get back (to Mohegan Sun),” Hunt said.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sheehan’s Caitlyn Hunt scored 18 points, 11 of them in the first half.
“It was a great defensive effort. The girls went out and executed. It was probably our best defensive effort of the whole year.” — Sheehan coach Mike Busillo.