WALLINGFORD — On a day when the Sheehan girls basketball team learned four-year starting point guard Lexi Ocasio was likely lost for the year with a re-injured ACL, the Titans needed a reason to smile.
They got it by overcoming a halftime deficit to defeat Lyman Hall 43-32 on Monday night in the second matchup between the Wallingford rivals this winter.
The Titans had 3-balls by Carolyn Biel (7 points), Mackenzie Hemstock (7 points) and Liv Robles (13 points) in the fourth quarter. Robles’ long ball was the dagger. Her shot with 3:10 left gave the Titans a 37-30 lead, which the visitors made stand up by hitting the bulk of their free throws down the stretch.
“That shot gave us some breathing room,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “We didn’t have to score. We just needed to hit our free throws.”
Sheehan trailed 17-13 at the half, with its offense looking completely out of whack without Ocasio. Sheehan had as many turnovers as points through the first 16 minutes.
The Lyman Hall defense was simply stifling. The Trojans allowed just two made field goals in the first 13:23 of the game with some great play from their stars, Kailey Lipka (11 points) and Hailey Bruneau (12 points).
“It was a tight game and they made their three’s and foul shots in the fourth quarter,” LH coach Tom Lipka said. “In the second quarter, we didn’t finish some open looks and we could have been up 10-12 points, but we were only up four. Our defense played great in the first half.”
The Trojans (10-10) got on track offensively with the first three field goals the game: a Bruneau layup, a Kailey Lipka layup and a Elise Hastings foul-line jumper.
Liv Robles canned a triple as Sheehan’s lone field goal of the initial quarter at the 3:02 mark.
Kailey Lipka swished a 3-ball with 30 seconds left in the first to give the Trojans a 9-5 advantage after the first eight minutes.
Lipka’s trey started a 9-0 run that stretched deep into the second quarter. That run included four of Bruneau’s five first-half steals. Bruneau added a banked jumper and a finger-roll in the stanza.
Sheehan turned the tables in the second half. Freshman Hayleigh Lagase (5 points) drilled a 3-pointer with 6:14 left in third quarter to give the Titans their first lead of the game, 18-17.
“I think we had a little adjustment on the floor without Lexi,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “I knew we would find our rhythm in the second half and we did. We put something together and made another shots and made enough stops to win.”
The third quarter had the best offensive flow as the rivals traded baskets. Five different scorers scored for each side in the quarter.
Maddi Larkin collected a pair of hoops for the Titans off the bench. Her drive with eight seconds left gave the visitors a 28-25 advantage after three quarters.
The rivals exchanged hoops in the fourth, but Sheehan’s shots came from beyond the arc. Then LH went cold. The Trojans were just 2-for-12 in the period to halt a comeback opportunity.
Sheehan completed the season sweep of LH. The Titans won the first meeting at home on Jan. 6, 53-46.
The loss snapped a three-game LH winning streak.
Sheehan ends its regular season at 14-6 and on a six-game winning streak. Sheehan earned a share of the SCC Housatonic championship on Friday night at Career, a victory tarnished by the injury to Ocasio.
On Monday, Caroline Dighello took the reins as starting point guard for Sheehan. She said she has learned plenty from Ocasio.
“This was a big win for us because Lexi was out,” Dighello said. “We are trying to win for her. We were a little nervous in the first half, but we turned it around.”
Dighello drew some starts as a freshman when Ocasio missed some time last year.
“Dighello is up for the challenge,” Busillo said. “Lexi has done more for this program than any kid I have ever had. She means a lot and my heart is broken that she may not be able to suit up for us again. I’m hurting for her.”