Shelton ends Wamogo's dream season
LITCHFIELD – The air in the Wamogo gym was thick with disappointment Thursday night, an atmosphere foreign to the area in recent times. For the first all season the Warriors weren’t good enough and it was a difficult ending to swallow.
Top-ranked and undefeated Wamogo’s great leap forward into Division III of the state tournament ended abruptly at the hands of No. 16 Shelton, 69-60, ending a brilliant season that included the Berkshire League title and BL Tournament championships.
The Warriors (23-1) had roughed up most of its opponents during the season by obscene margins and the couple of times they were challenged, a way to victory was still found. This night was different.
The Warriors were good and they were game, they just weren’t good enough and a lot of that was due to the Gaels.
The Warriors vaunted trapping press which had devastated so many teams during the season did not shake the Gaels. There were some turnovers but there were more baskets at the other end. Shelton’s 6-foot-6 center Melvin Kolenovic proved to be a big pain with 19 points and 10 boards.
Every time the Warriors came close or took a lead either Peri Basimakopolous (17 points), Brian Berritto (nine points), flashy sophomore Brian Belade (14 points) or Kevin Belden (10 points) immediately responded with a big basket. Wamogo hadn't given up more than 63 points in a game all year. Shelton's offense proved to be not only clutch but potent.
"(Shelton) probably played as well as it can play," said Wamogo coach Gregg Hunt. "We didn't lose, we got beat."
There were no big runs for the Warriors in fact; they only led twice during the game at, 8-7, and, 32-31. They chased most of the night although the lead never was more than seven points until the final seconds. On a night when a full-loaded offense was needed the Warriors were off-kilter with Garrett Sattazahn (25 points) and Ethan Collins (22 points) carrying the bulk of the load.
"This team is built on three or four guys getting to double figures," said coach Wamogo coach Gregg Hunt. "Tonight two guys had monster games scoring, but we needed a little more from other guys and it didn't happen.
The Warriors hung close throughout the game in the red-bathed gym that was packed tight and ready to explode and often did in an electric atmosphere. Each time Shelton extended the lead out a bit, the Warriors would reel them back in and with just over a minute left had cut the lead to 60-58 on a 10-footer in the lane from Garrett Sattazahn.
After Shelton (13-9) turned the ball over, the Warriors had a chance to tie or go ahead only to see Reid Turtoro’s three-point attempt from the corner hit the rim and go long. From there it was all Shelton.
Belade got an easy bucket off an inbounds pass for a 62-58 lead and Sattazahn couldn’t connect on a three-pointer at the other end. Then it was Berrito’s turn from the line and he swished two to make it 64-58 with 34 seconds left.
Sean Coffey then missed a three-pointer and Berrito hit one of two from the line and two more Wamogo misses later Kolenovic sealed the outcome with a two fouls shots with 26 seconds left for a 67-58 lead.
For all that wondered what Wamogo could do with the bigger schools, well, they did a lot. They were not outclassed, just outplayed and not by much. And that was the Warriors frustration.
“We knew from the beginning of the year that we had to play teams like this,” said Ethan Collins who put on a dazzling shooting display for the Warriors with five three-pointers as part of his 22 points. “We just didn’t execute well enough to win.”
Sattazahan who will go down as one of the BL’s all-time greats and played like it in his finale saw areas where the Warriors needed more.
‘Shelton was obviously quicker and more athletic than we’ve seen,” said Sattazahn. “But our defense was really bad tonight and we didn’t play well. They picked us apart on offense and we couldn’t hit shots and down the stretch we didn’t get it done.”
Shelton jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead before Wamogo got loosened up. But with Reid Turotor0 keying a quick six point spurt with an offensive rebound bucket, the Warriors jumped in front, 9-8. The rest of the first half was an exchange of each team throwing shots at one another and neither backing up.
Berrito drained a three-pointer with one second left in the first quarter to put Shelton ahead, 17-11. The lead was 24-17 midway through the second quarter before Collins lit up the gym with a trio of three-pointers, the last one cutting the deficit to, 31-30. Collins would finish the half with 15 points.
Then Sattazahn got loose for a layup for a 33-32 lead and the gym was rumbling. However, Kolenovic hit a layup before the half to put Shelton back on top, 33-32. Gaels coach Brian Gardiner was not surprised at the battle.
“Wamogo is one of the top 10 teams in the state,” said Gardiner. “I mean that. (Sattazahn) is outstanding and No. 11 (Collins) can really shoot the ball. And they have other players. We did some really good things in certain spots and some silly things but we fought through our mistakes.”
The second half continued in the same vein, Shelton refusing to give in to Wamogo’s press and Wamogo refusing to give in period.
Sattazahn was immense in the fourth quarter with 11 of his points but it wasn’t enough on this night.
In the end the Warriors were beaten but not bowed.
“These guys worked so hard, there is nothing more you can ask for,” said Sattazhan. We just didn’t get it done tonight.”
Maybe they got more done than they think. A proud season that ended with a proud fight.