CHESHIRE — The sixth-seeded Cheshire boys’ basketball team earned a hard-fought win on Thursday night, defeating No. 11 Shelton 68-53 in the first round of the SCC Tournament.
It was all junior Aidan Godfrey in this one as the Cheshire big man tied his career high with 31 points and added 13 rebounds and seven blocks.
Godfrey had been held scoreless in the first half of Cheshire’s past two games. On Thursday, he came flying out of the gate to propel the Rams into Saturday’s SCC quarterfinals.
“With Aidan, he had a really good first couple of games until he became a known commodity,” Cheshire head coach Dan Lee said. “It’s not unusual for them to put three guys on him, so I think he’s really come into his own to realize, ‘If I’m double-teamed, someone is open and, in turn, that is going to
help me get open.’”
Shelton opened the game hot, too. Junior guard Peri Basimakopoulos hit a pair of quick 3-pointers to get the Gaels out to an 8-2 lead.
However, Cheshire settled in, easily breaking the Shelton press and finding Godfrey for a couple of easy buckets. Senior guard Alec Frione followed with a pair of 3-pointers to give the Rams their first lead of the night.
Godfrey then took his game beyond the arc, drilling 2-of-2 threes in the quarter, giving him 10 points and Cheshire an 18-14 advantage after one.
“A lot of the times we were able to get the ball to (Godfrey) wide open,” Lee said. “That’s a credit to a guy setting a screen.
“Aidan’s second-chance opportunities — he’s just a guy who doesn’t give up on a shot,” Lee added. “He’s a guy that will miss a shot, get his own rebound and put it back in. He just has that will and desire to make every play better.”
The Gaels switched to a 2-3 zone in the second quarter to combat Godfrey’s size, and while they forced some misses, the Cheshire defense didn’t let them find much success on the other end. Godfrey blocked five shots in the first half alone.
The Rams were able to get out in transition, leading to an Ian Battipaglia triple and a pair of Colby Hayes layups, extending the lead to 32-25 at the half.
The Cheshire defense came out of the break just as aggressively, forcing four turnovers in the first three minutes, which propelled the Rams to a 40-27 lead.
“In the second half, I really thought we started to run our sets better,” Lee said. “Obviously, Aidan’s a big part of what we do, and I thought our guards did a great job of getting the ball to him.”
Shelton would stay in it. Senior captain Brian Berrito (12 points) made some tough shots to keep the Gaels within striking distance at 11 after three quarters.
“Shelton has a lot of offensive players who pose some matchup problems,” Lee said. “Obviously, Berrito hit a number of shots. They’re a solid offensive team that can put some points on the board.”
Cheshire would go back to Godfrey in the fourth quarter and he did not disappoint. After posting up for a couple of easy layups, Godfrey dialed up his third 3-pointer of the night to give the Rams their biggest lead, 60-43.
The Rams salted away the final seconds, setting themselves up for the quarterfinal matchup with No. 3 Wilbur Cross (13-7) on Saturday in Branford at 4:15 p.m.
“Wilbur Cross is a very good team,” Lee said. “They’re going to pose some challenges for us. They’re probably the most physical team we will have faced all year.”
However, Lee is extremely proud of how his team. The Rams had very little varsity experience coming into this season, yet stand at 14-7.
“This was kind of unexpected given that we graduated (eight seniors) last year, but we’re just taking it one game at a time,” Lee said. “They’re a great group to be around.”
Read more articles like this and help support local journalism by subscribing to the Record Journal.
Unlimited Digital Access just 99¢
Read more articles like this by subscribing to the Record Journal.
Unlimited Digital Access for just 99¢