Shelton High’s girls basketball team entered into the season young and largely inexperienced, but ended the campaign with eight wins and a state playoff appearance on its resume.
The Gaelettes saw a successful season come to a close in a 44-20 setback to host Trumbull in the first round of the Class LL state playoffs.
Shelton, which went 8-12 during the regular campaign, earned the bracket’s No. 30 ranking, and Trumbull, coming off a 19-1 regular slate which it followed up with a run to the FCIAC championship, is seeded third.
The Gaelettes trailed 8-5 after one quarter of play and it was still a single-digit lead for the Eagles, at 13-5, with just over two minutes remaining in the first half. Trumbull pulled ahead 19-5 at the half and held Shelton without another basket until midway through the fourth quarter.
“We played defense hard the whole game,” Shelton coach Joe Cavallaro said.
Cavallaro thought some early missed shot opportunities caused the team to lose confidence and press a bit.
It didn’t help that the Eagles are good at putting the ball in the basket at one end and defending at the other.
Just qualifying for the state playoffs is an accomplishment that makes Cavallaro proud.
“I’m pleased with making states,” said Cavallaro, who has a large contingent of freshmen, sophomores and juniors in the fold. “We won some good games. We won with defense more than offense, They’ll come around (shooting the basketball) with another year of experience. They’ll get better.”
Shelton will miss the leadership and all-around play of senior captain Kayla Resto, along with the only other senior Alivia Leonard.
Resto scored seven points, including all five of Shelton’s first quarter markers.
Junior Mackenzie Joyce and Resto were the team’s defensive leaders throughout the season and in the state playoff game. Sophomore Leya Vohra ran the team’s offense at the point guard position.
“I was really happy we accomplished our goal of making the state tournament. Even though it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. We all worked hard and we gave it our all in the game tonight,” Resto said.
Cavallaro points to the past couple of seasons as evidence that a little playoff exposure can go a long way.
Two seasons ago, the Gaelettes won their first-round game over New Britain before being ousted by top-seeded Mercy. Cavallaro felt that postseason experience enabled them to, as the No. 25 seed, hang in there with No. 8 Norwich Free Academy in a 60-51 loss last winter.
“It makes a big difference. It’s a different feel,” Cavallaro said of playing in a tournament game for after having already done so.”
The Gaelettes hustled throughout the matchup with the Eagles.
Junior Maggie Howard and freshman Clarisa Pierre both dove to the floor for loose balls. Gia Gamboain hustled to save a ball headed out of bounds.
Gamboian had a 3-pointer, Pierre converted a 3-point play, and Joyce, Howard, freshman Kiera O’Connor and sophomore Elizabeth Casinelli contributed to Shelton’s point total.
Resto exited the game to a round of hugs from coaches and players with a two-plus minutes remaining and Trumbull well on its way to victory.
“I just hope I was able to show these girls what it’s like to be a true leader so they can continue that next season,” Resto said.