CANTON >> They are beginning to figure this out.
The Avon High boys basketball team didn’t have much time to adjust when the season began playing five games in an eight-day span that included the Christmas holiday.
Now, the Falcons are in a normal routine of two games and three practices a week. They are beginning to recognize their strengths.
Last week, the Falcons continued to feed forward Patrick McKearney, who scored a season-high 28 points in a 57-34 win over Stafford. In the game prior to the win over the Bulldogs, freshman Nate Laszewski had a career-high 12 points and point guard Sean Herrmann had a season-high 16 points.
“We’re starting to come together,” Avon High coach Chris Vozzolo said. “Hopefully in a few weeks we’ll be playing our best ball.”
Last Friday night, Avon again rode the strength of McKearney, a 6-foot-3 senior who had 12 points and numerous rebounds in the paint in a 47-32 win over Canton. It was the fourth win in five games for the Falcons, now 6-4 and 5-1 in the NCCC.
“He is a dominating player,” Vozzolo said. “We’re focusing on getting the ball to Patrick and he is answering. Once he got settled into the game, he got some good looks.”
McKearney is averaging 17 points a game in the last four games. But it is not a one-man show for Falcons. Point guard Sean Herrmann is averaging 15 points a game over the last four games and had 12 last Friday against Canton.
Guard John Burdick had eight off the bench, including a spectacular leaping drive to the basket late in the game that energized the Falcon fans that came to Canton.
“He plays fearlessly,” Vozzolo said of Burdick, an All-State player in tennis and an All-Pequot Conference kicker for the football team. “John is a real athletic kid who gives us energy and sparks us.”
There was plenty of energy in the Canton gym. All four sets of bleachers were pulled out and there were two vocal groups of students sitting behind their respective benches.
The Warrior faithful were optimistic. Canton opened the season with three wins in its first four games and they had played pretty good defense in two losses prior to the Avon game.They cut a 17-point deficit to one in a loss to Windsor Locks and limited one of the league’s highest scoring teams, East Windsor, to their lowest output of the season — 49 points.
But Avon’s defense didn’t allow Canton to get its offense going. Avon ran out to a quick 10-2 lead in the first quarter fueled by a few steals and some relentless rebounding from McKearney and Justin Reichler.
Canton (3-4, 2-3 NCCC) was able to fight its way back into the game with an 11-2 run. Andrew Zukowski had four of his team-high 13 points in the run while Shane Toland had three. The Warrior fans roared when Jake Wood took a nice feed inside from Cameron Lange and laid it in off the glass for a 13-12 lead early in the second quarter.
But Avon reasserted themselves. Brad Fisher hit a jumper from the top of the key and McKearney had six points as the Falcons took a 20-15 lead. Twice, McKearney simply backed Zukowski into the lane and scored underneath the basket.
Canton was able to cut the lead to five, 36-31 with 5:53 remaining in the game on Wood’s underhanded basket in the lane. But Canton never scored another field goal in the game. Herrmann drained a three-point shot to extend the lead to eight and Burdick scored with 3:21 left on his drive to the basket to push the lead to 11 points, 41-32.
“I thought in the second half we had open looks but they didn’t go down for us,” Canton coach Craig Archambault said. “They forced us to take some quick shots but for the most part, we didn’t finish on our open looks.”
Zukowski led the Warriors with 13 points while Wood added seven.
“In our last two games (Avon and East Windsor), we’ve had two great defensive efforts,” Archambault said. “We held East Windsor to 49 and they were scoring in the 70s. We just need to find a way to score with the ball.”
Canton travels to Stafford on Friday night before hosting Enfield on Tuesday, Jan. 28. Avon travels to Bolton on Friday before hosting Windsor Locks on Tuesday at the high school.
Avon 47, Canton 32
Avon (47): John Burdick 3-2-8, Jordan Levine 0-0-0, Brad Fisher 3-0-6, Jared Rosenblatt 0-0-0, Sean Herrmann 3-4-12, Patrick McKearney 4-4-12, Jake Sartain 0-0-0, Zach Stirling 1-1-3, Matt Reagan 0-0-0, Justin Reichler 2-0-4, Nate Laszewski 1-0-2. Totals 17 11-21 47
Canton (32): Rieley Hoffman 1-0-2, Alex Daley 0-0-0, Ben Sullivan 0-0-0, Andrew Zukowski 6-0-13, Jake Wood 3-1-7, Cam Daley 2-0-4, Cam Lange 1-1-3, Shane Toland 1-1-3. Totals 14 3-7 32
Avon (6-4) 12 12 8 15 – 47
Canton (3-4) 10 8 8 6 — 32
Three-point goals: Herrmann (A) 2, Zukowski (C) 1