Shelton High’s tough defense kept the hosts in the game throughout but ultimately missed shots and turnovers — along with East Hartford’s late-game 3-point shooting prowess — added up to a 43-34 setback for the Gaelettes in their Holiday Tournament opener on Thursday night.

The Gaelettes fell to 2-2 and the Hornets improved to 4-1.

Shelton led 12-6 after one quarter of play and trailed 19-17 at halftime.

East Hartford was held to just a pair of third-quarter free throws until a 3-pointer, the first of four in the second half, with 2:13 left in the stanza gave the Hornets a lead it wouldn’t relinquish at 24-22.

“We were playing much better defense up until that point,” said Shelton coach Joe Cavallaro, whose team saw the Hornets can another shot from downtown on the way to carrying a 29-25 lead into the fourth. “We gave away way too many threes. I don’t know if maybe we wore down. We didn’t communicate as well as we had been.”

Clarissa Pierre stopped East Hartford on three consecutive third-quarter possessions, with a blocked shot, a tie-up for a possession change and by drawing a charge.

While the defense was thwarting the Hornets, the offense couldn’t capitalize.

After falling behind by nine points early in the final period, the Gaelettes got to within five when Keira O’Connor banked home a runner from straight on and Maggie Howard drove the baseline for two points making it 37-32 with 3:52 to play.

Shelton got a seven-point deficit back to five when Pierre took a feed from Leya Vohra and scored down low, making it 39-34 with 2:16 left.

Shelton, however, couldn’t score the rest of the way.

The Gaelettes committed 18 turnovers, and Cavallaro noted that many of them were a result of errant play on the part of his team.

“Very few came against the press,” he said. “We handled the ball well against the press but, we kept trying to force the ball inside too often.”

Shelton’s shooting struggles was a product of East Hartford’s tight defense.

“When we’re not hitting the outside shot, we don’t make the other team spread out,” Cavallaro said. “You’re not going to win a lot of games shooting 14 of 50.

“They’re a very athletic team. We had our chances though. We were down four, five, six points in the fourth quarter, but we made three turnovers in a row when it was at five. And we were tired and we had to chase.”

It didn’t help that one of the team’s tallest players, Reem Abdel-Hack, was out of the lineup with an illness.

Howard led Shelton with 10 points and two steals and Pierre dropped in eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds.

Alexandra Capalbo had six points. Vohra and Mackenzie Joyce both scored four.

Vohra grabbed seven rebounds and Joyce had six boards.

“We feel happy we’re playing in two days,” said Cavallaro, whose team will play Bunnell on Saturday. “We hadn’t played a game in a week. Maybe we’ll get into a better routine.”

Shelton

Mackenzie Joyce 2 0-0 4, Maggie Howard 4 1-2 10, Leya Vohra 2 0-0 4, Keira O Connor 1 0-0 2, Clarissa Pierre 3 2-5 8, Alex Capalbo 2 2-4 6

Totals: 14 5-11 34

East Hartford

Tiana Asberry 4 2-4 11, Keasha Brown 0 2-2 2, Jaida Robinson 0 0-2 0, Aisha Caraballo 1 0-0 2, Shailyn Pinkney 4 8-9 17, Myah Landry 1 0-0 3, Legacy Jackson 3 0-1 8

Totals: 13 12-18 43

E. Hartford: 6-13-10-14 — 43

Shelton:        12- 5- 8- 9 — 34