SHELTON — Having coached some 2,000 high school games between them, North Haven girls’ basketball coach Tom Blake and his Shelton counterpart Joe Cavallaro have seen a lot of crazy endings.
Friday night’s ending was as wild as any of them.
Tied 35-35 in overtime and North Haven inbounding the ball some 60 feet from the basket, Shelton was called for a technical foul for touching the ball before it left the hands of North Haven in-bounder Julia Bogen.
North Haven’s Olivia Stefanik sank the bank end of the resulting technical free throws, giving the Indians a 36-35 SCC Hammonasset Division victory over the Gaelettes at Murray Gymnasium.
“I’ve been in some crazy games in my life, and I’m going to say in my 40-plus years that’s probably got to go in as a top-5 finish for us,” said Blake. “I’ve lost some of those, and we’ve won some of those.
“It’s the resiliency of our kids because we missed a lay-up (to win it) in regulation, we missed easy shots, we made a couple of defensive mistakes, but the kids keep coming back,” continued Blake.
“You lose games like this, it’s tough,” said Cavallaro. “We played hard. We came back three or four different times. We got the lead in the overtime, and then we just couldn’t make a shot.”
The game was there for the taking for either team, both at the end of regulation and in overtime.
With the scored tied 30-30 in the last minute of regulation, North Haven’s Eveani Okuwosa made one-of-two free throws to give the Indians a one-point lead.
Shelton’s Leya Vohra went to the free throw line with 30 seconds left, also hitting one free throw to knot it back up at 31.
North Haven (11-5) missed a pair of potential game-winning lay-ups in the game’s final 10 seconds, the second after a Shelton turnover.
The Gaelettes (14-4) took early control in overtime, with Keira O’Connor scoring on a baseline drive off a Vohra assist, and Devan Wildman connecting on a long two-pointer to make it 35-31, Shelton, with 1:52 left in OT.
But Okuwosa scored a bucket and made a pair of free throws to tie it back up at 35-35, and Shelton missed four free throws in the final 1:06, including a pair by Clarissa Pierre with three seconds left.
“We had our opportunities. We missed an incredible amount of shots,” said Cavallaro, whose team made 15-of-50 from the field, and just 3-of-17 from the charity stripe.
Turnovers also proved costly for Shelton, with the Gaelettes turning the ball over 26 times on the night, including a dozen combined in the fourth quarter and OT.
“We put that half court press on, and we got turnover after turnover after turnover,” said Blake. “And that’s what did it. We’ve been hanging our hat on our defense all year long.”