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SHELTON — Coach Joe Cavallaro had a game plan and his Shelton girls’ basketball team executed it well when the Gaels defeated Bunnell, 37-19, in the opening round of the Holiday Tournament at the Vincent Murray Gymnasium on Thursday.

East Hartford topped East Lyme, 39-30, in the later game.

Shelton (4-0) will play East Hartford (2-2) in the 7 p.m. final on Saturday. Bunnell (3-1) will meet East Lyme (0-4) at 5.

“I think we challenged pretty much every shot they took all game, and we did a really good job getting the ball down low to Clarissa Pierre,” Cavallaro said. “We win basically with defense. It’s what we want to do every game: play defense and be patient on offense.”

Pierre scored 16 points, mostly from the block, with multiple players finding the junior center.

“Our passing was amazing and our intensity was up, and has been up all has been up all four games,” Pierre said. “Our defense was on point.”

Shelton forced seven first-quarter turnovers with a shifting half-court defense. It limited Bunnell to a pair of shots in the opening stanza, as the home team took an 11-0 lead.

Pierre had 7 points, 3 rebounds, a block and a steal in the period. Leya Vohra had 3 of her 7 steals. Devan Wildman had a basket and two steals.

“Everyone looks for Clarisa down low,” Cavallaro said. “She did a good job rebounding also, 16 points, 17 rebounds.”

Bunnell, coached by Francisco Salazar, had won its first three games over West Haven (59-49), Bullard-Havens (74-30) and Masuk (42-33).

“I’m really impressed with our hustle,” Salazar said. “I’m a defensive guy, and they took that in right away. They are working hard. It is the beginning of the year. We know we have to shift better on defense and double a girl like that (Pierre) when we face another team with that height.”

It was 13-0 when Bunnell’s Amanda Zdru scored on a breakaway off a steal by Mariana Trovarelli. That hoop came with 4:18 remaining in the first half. A blocked shot by Adriana DeBernardo led to another transition bucket by Zdru, with Yovanna Cruz getting the assist.

Shelton closed the half on a 7-4 run. Ashia Askew, Vohra and Emily Sandin each found an angle to get the ball to Pierre on the block. Trovarelli swished home a 3-pointer off a feed from Kristin Zack for the Bunnell bucket.

The Gaelettes scored the first 9 points of the third quarter, with Wildman, Keira O’Connor, Reem Abdel-Hack and Vohra accounting for the points. Vohra’s hoop came on a great pass from Wildman off a backdoor cut.

DeBernardo connected on a 3-pointer and Zdru scored on a drive to make it 29-11 after three quarters.

O’Connor’s 3-pointer was only Shelton’s sixth attempt on the season, and second make. “We are not a strong outside shooting team, but we got our shots and played well,” said Cavallaro, whose club had dispatched Branford (37-23), Masuk (47-24) and Oxford (40-25) on their first three outings.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Shelton’s Clarissa Pierre scored 16 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, blocked 3 shots and disrupted Bunnell each time the Lady Bulldogs went to the basket.

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354

SHELTON 37, BUNNELL 19

BUNNELL 0 7 4 8 — 19

SHELTON 11 9 9 8 — 37

Bunnell (3-1)

Amanda Zdru 3 2-2 8; Yovanna Cruz 1 0-0 2; Mariana Trovarelli 2 0-0 5; Adriana DeBernardo 1 0-0 2; Andrea Seretti 1 0-0 2. - Totals: 8 2-2 19.

Shelton (4-0)

Leya Vohra 2 1-2 5; Reem Abdel-Hack 1 0-0 2; Clarissa Pierre 7 2-4 16; Keira O’Connor 3 1-4 8; Devon Wildman 2 0-0 4; Ashia Askew 1 0-0 2. - Totals: 16 4-10 37.

3-pointers: B—Trovarelli; S—O’Connor