— Michael Suppe (@Mike_Suppe) January 11, 2020
SHELTON — Not even a bout of bronchitis could slow down Peri Basimakopoulos when Shelton took on Hand in a Southern Connecticut Conference boys basketball contest on Friday night at Murray Gymnasium.
The senior guard battled through the illness to score 20 points in helping the Gaels dispatch the pesky Tigers, 60-42. It was the fourth win a row for Shelton, which improved to 4-3.
“It’s all mental,” Basimakopoulous said. “I just had to fight through it. I had all my guys there… I saw the way they were fighting and there is no excuse for me not to fight that way.”
Basimakopoulous’ backcourt mate Brian Belade also poured in 20 points, while Melvin Kolenovic chipped in with 16.
“We have the luxury of Belade, Peri, Melvin,” Shelton head coach Brian Gardiner said. “We can kind of pick and choose what we want to do in what points of the game.. We are tough to defend.
“They’re starting to play better basketball and they’re starting to become more confident in themselves. Hopefully that continues.”
The Tigers (2-5) fell behind by double figures in the first half, but keyed by shooting of Nick Donofrio (15 points), clawed their way back in the third quarter.
A put back by Basimakopoulos staked Shelton to its largest lead, 32-16, at the 5:49 mark of the third quarter and forced a Hand timeout.
Out of the break, Scott Testori scored and the Gaels were whistled for a technical foul. Donofrio made both fouls shots, Hand got a defensive stop and Donofrio sank a 3-pointer to make it 32-23.
After a layup by Steven Tarantino led to a Shelton timeout, Donofrio knocked down a corner jumper off a steal to slice the deficit to 32-27.
Hand then came up with another steal, but missed a slew of layups. The Tigers were then hit with a technical on the other end, with Basimakopoulos making one of two from the line.
“We lost our composure in a couple of points in the third quarter,” Hand head coach Jimmy Economopoulos said. “Even when we were making a run, we got T’d up. We had a couple of opportunities to cut it to a one-score game and those didn’t fall.”
On the resulting possession, Basimakopoulos converted a four-point play and from there the Tigers never got back within single digits.
“What I really liked is that we showed some resiliency when they cut it back to seven in a crazy sequence,” Gardiner said. “Good teams bounce back from that. We didn’t lose our composure. We pushed the lead with good shots on the other end.”
Hand led 3-0 early on, before a 3-pointer from Basimakopoulos kicked off a 17-3 Gael run that stretched until midway through the second quarter.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Gardiner said of his senior’s effort while battling bronchitis.
Ryan Collins converted a three-point play for the Tigers, narrowing Hand’s margin to 17-9 and halting the run.
That sparked a 7-0 Tiger counter flurry, with Donofrio scoring back-to-back baskets to cut Shelton’s lead to 17-13 at the 3:53 mark.
The momentum swung back the other way on the next trip down the court, with a 3-pointer from Kolenovic at the top of the arc igniting an 8-2 Shelton burst to close the first half. Sophomore Randy Mones knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 25-15 at the break in favor of the Gaels.
“They have scorers all over the floor,” Economopoulos said. “They’re a very talented team. It caught up to us tonight and we lost to a better team tonight.”