WALLINGFORD — As the basketball regular season reaches its halfway point, Sheehan and Lyman Hall will meet for the second and — barring a postseason collision — final time on Friday night.
Like the first go-round, the traditional doubleheader, thanks to the omicron spike, has been divided. The boys game will be held at Lyman Hall and the girls will tip off at Sheehan, both at 7 p.m.
In the initial contests between the rivals, on Dec. 21, Sheehan swept. The Lady Titans won 72-38 at Lyman Hall and the Sheehan boys won 69-48 at home.
The Sheehan girls have the best record of the four Wallingford squads at 6-4. Yet, at this point of the season, coach Mike Busillo grades his team’s midseason report as “incomplete.”
Busillo’s Titans started the season 4-0, then got hit with COVID protocols and injuries, most notably to leading scorer and rebounder Darla Jagrosse (12.6 ppg, 8 rpg). The senior center remains out with an ankle injury suffered last week against Mercy and Busillo said the team is still adjusting to playing without her.
Other top scorers for Sheehan are senior guard Molly Smolenski (11.6 ppg) and sophomore guard Olivia Cassesse (11.7 ppg, 6 rpg). Senior guard Madison DiPasquale is averaging 10 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Reilly Hunter leads the team with 2.5 steals per game.
Sheehan enters the game coming off a 60-52 win over Canton on Wednesday night, a victory that snapped a two-game skid.
“It was an important win on a lot of levels,” Busilo said. “We are still shorthanded, but we beat a good, quality team. It was good for our psyche because losing is hard on you. So it was good for our sanity.”
Busillo added that because of a recent game schedule made busier by makeups, the Titans have only had two practices since Jagrosse went down with her injury on Jan. 12.
“So we’ve been going by the seat of our pants,” Busillo remarked. “The kids have done a really good job adjusting.”
“We are really different without her," Busillo said. “Everything is harder. Rebounding and scoring is harder. That’s kind of what I expected.”
Busillo also expects Friday’s meeting with Lyman Hall to be closer than the first meeting.
“When we played Wilbur Cross and Canton the second time this year the margin of victory was closer," Busillo noted. “Both games were much more difficult the second time and I would expect the same thing tomorrow night. We are going to have to play well.”
Lyman Hall enters the game 1-7, but is coming off its first win of the season on Tuesday against Wilbur Cross, 50-34.
“We were back and forth in the first half and the we played well in the second half,” Trojans coach Tom Lipka said. “We scored the most points that we scored in any game all season.
“Shea (Barron) had a big game for us. Mercedes Cestaro had 12 points for us. It was a game we had a chance to win and we came out focused and ready and we need to do that against Sheehan.”
Lipka said his team is excited for the chance to play Sheehan and slowly getting its confidence back after the well-publicized 92-4 loss at Sacred Heart Academy on Jan. 3.
“We want to go out there and be competitive tomorrow,” Lipka said. “Sheehan has good shooters and is well balanced.”
Barron is Lyman Hall’s leading scorer at 10 points a game. Macy Buccheri is second at five points per contest.
“Our schedule lightens up in the second half and we have to try to be more consistent for four quarters," Lipka said. “We have to be mentally in the game right from the beginning.
“We have a good shot at some wins in the second half. We had some tough games in the first half and we want to put those behind us and focus on what is ahead.”
On the boys side, Lyman Hall enters at 2-7 and Sheehan at 3-6.
Sheehan’s 6-foot-4 senior center Kyron Coviello leads the way for the Titans with 14 points and 10 rebounds per game. Senior guard Jaidin Kapoor is averaging nine points.
“Everyone has been contributing; every night it’s different people," Sheehan coach Joe Gaetano said. “We treat this game with Lyman Hall like any other game. The next game is the most important and this is the game we are focusing on.”
Gaetano said the team has underachieved to this point, but has been hurt by injuries and illness.
“You would rather go through all of that early," Gaetano said. “Hopefully, we will get our momentum back. We are looking to build on our last win.
“I want to get some consistency,” Gaetano continued. “We had a few games this year that we should have won if we finished better. We want our offense to come from our defense. That’s what our mentality needs to be.”
Sheehan uses 9-10 guys and plays best at an uptempo pace.
“Lyman Hall is a dangerous team," Gaetano noted. “We have to take care of what we do and not worry about what they are doing and, hopefully, we get the right results.”
Senior captains Brady Campbell and Justin Hackett are the leading scorers for Lyman Hall. Campbell averages 12.4 points and four rebounds per game. Hackett averages 11 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Naz Medina is Lyman Hall’s top 3-point threat. The senior is netting 8.5 points per game.
“We’ve got to tighten up on our execution; we’re struggled to score,” Lyman Hall coach Rob Ruys said. “We came into the year with not a lot of varsity experience, but we have to put it all together and play four tough quarters.”
“I believe in these guys,” Ruys added. “We are better than we are playing right now. We feel we are stepping in the right direction.”