By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
With Thursday night’s 75-60 home victory over Shelton, the Amity boys basketball team improved its Southern Connecticut Conference—Housatonic Division record to 7-1 (13-4 overall) and clinched its first Housy title since the 2006-2007 season. In addition, his three point play with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left in the game, gave Spartan senior Zac Campbell 1001 career points. He became the ninth player in Spartan history to score over 1000 career points and the first Spartan to join the 1000 point club since Bob Coppola in 1999. In addition to his 22 points, Campbell also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
“We knew that if we beat Shelton, we’d finish 7-1 and win then Housy, but we really didn’t talk about it,” Coach Jeff Nielsen said. “After our poor offensive effort against Hamden earlier in the week, we wanted to focus on ball movement, sharing the ball, finding the open man, and scoring easy baskets.”
The score was tied at 11-11 with 3:28 left in the first quarter when Campbell, Gardner Broderick, and Dave Ryan canned consecutive drives to give the Spartans a 17-11 lead that they never yielded. Campbell closed out the opening session with a three at the buzzer that extended that lead to 20-12. Playing one of their best quarters of the season, Amity netted eight of its 14 shots (57%) and outrebounded the Gaels 10-7.
One minute into the second quarter, Gardner Broderick cashed in on a steal, was fouled and added a free throw that gave the Spartans a 25-12 advantage. When Broderick followed that by scoring off a perfect feed from Ben LeVine to complete a 16-1 run and extend the lead to 27-12 with 4:45 left in the first half.
Christian Federici (who cashed out with a team-high 14 points) scored on a put back that drew Shelton within eight points (32-24) with 1:07 to go, but consecutive lay-ups in the final 35 seconds, enabled the Spartans to walk off with a 36-24 advantage. Amity ended the first half hitting 15 of 29 shots (52%) while the Gaels were good on 10 of their 23 tries from the floor, but also missed nine of 12 from the foul line.
Following that red-hot start, Amity came out stone cold in the second half, missing eight of its first nine shots.
According to Nielsen, “Shelton went to a zone defense at the start of the second half. Instead of taking the ball inside, we began to settle for perimeter jump shots. Finally, we got back on track, took the ball to the hole, and maintained our lead.”
Despite their frigid second half start, the Spartans hung onto their commanding lead as Shelton scored only one field goal during the first half of the third quarter. With 38 seconds left and his team still trailing 48-37, Ben Malay swished a trey. Shortly thereafter, the Gaels’ Casey Belade gunned home a three ball from deep in the corner to make it a 10 point game (50-40).
Midway into the final session, LeVine made successive pin-point feeds inside to Matt Lettick (16 points,) and Remi Farrell. Those easy scores enabled Amity to make it 60-45 and put the game out of reach.
Nielsen added, “Tonight, we played one of our best games of the season. Our defense was the best it has been. In addition we got inside and hit the glass hard. Our offensive rebounding was excellent tonight and gave us a lot of scoring opportunities.”
Amity narrowly outboarded the game, but outgunned Gaels 32-31 but also connected on 31 of its 66 shots (47%) while Shelton netted 23 of its 51 tries (45%). The 7-1-, 3-5 losers were good on only 10 of 19 from the foul line, compared to Amity’s 11 of 17 performance.
In addition to Federici’s 14 points. Michael Davis dropped in 11 points while Malay and Craig Packnick each tallied 10 for Shelton. Packnick also grabbed a team-best seven rebounds.
While most of the attention was focused on Campbell, Nielsen also made special note of Broderick’s 19 point-five rebound performance.
He said, “Gardner is very smart and smooth inside with a very soft touch. His big key to success is his ability to score easy baskets from down the paint. Tonight, he got us off to a good start.”
Amity is at Hand on Wednesday at 7 p.m.