CANTON >> A little adversity and some challenges aren’t slowing down the Canton High boys basketball team. A week ago, the Warriors had three games. They went to overtime in two contests. At the end of the week, Canton played two games in about 18 hours.
Canton played with grit and won twice. With five games left in the regular season, the Warriors are 9-6 and 8-5 in the league. Canton has won four of its last five games and it’s not the work of just one person.
“It’s been the team,” second-year coach Craig Archambault said. “That’s why I love this team. We have a different guy who can step it up each night.”
The Warriors began the week with a double overtime loss to Suffield, 53-51. Canton led by two after three quarters, 32-30 before both teams found their offenses in the fourth quarter and OT.
Jake Wood and Cameron Lange had 13 points each while Andrew Zukowski chipped in with 11. But Suffield had the last laugh. Nolan McCoy stole the ball with 17 seconds left in the second OT and fed teammate Robert Howard for the game-winning layup in a 53-51 victory.
The Warriors followed that up with another thriller on Friday night against Coventry. Canton led by 16 points with 3:16 left in the third quarter but they didn’t put away the visiting Patriots.
The Patriots didn’t give up a field goal in a stretch of 7:50 and rallied to take a five-point lead with 2:16 remaining the game. But Canton re-ignited its defense and forced turnovers on three consecutive Coventry possessions in overtime to earn a 63-59 victory and a spot in the Class S tournament.
And about 18 hours later, Canton outlasted Hartford Classical, 70-57 in a Saturday afternoon matinee in front of dozens of loud, enthusiastic youth basketball players. This time, Zukowski had 17 points to lead the Warriors with Lange chipping in with 15 and Daley scoring 14 points.
It was a good week for the Warriors. But Archambault had some nervous moments on Friday as he saw Coventry erase a 16-point Canton lead in the fourth quarter.
“We had some lapses on defense and lost the urgency to defend,” Archambault said of the Patriot comeback. “They never quit. They made some stops, got some steals and never gave up.”
Canton led by 16 points with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter after Lange hit a fadeaway jumper on the baseline. In the next 7:58, Daley sank Canton’s only field goal, slicing through the Patriot defense with 6:04 left in regulation.
In the meantime, Coventry picked up the intensity, began pulling down rebounds and went on a 26-5 run with nine points from Chris Grope (14 points). “We haven’t been outrebounded in the last seven games that is just due to their effort,” Coventry coach Michael Caccomo said. “They have a lot of grit and heart.”
Coventry’s Devan Valdes broke a tie ballgame, grabbing his own rebound and scoring with 2:47 left. After a Canton turnover, Grope drove the lane, scored and was fouled. He sank a foul shot for a five-point lead with 2:16 remaining, 51-46.
Lange hit a foul shot to cut the lead to four. With 58 seconds to go, Rieley Hoffman was fouled and he sank two free throws to cut the Coventry lead to two, 51-49.
Coventry never got a chance to extend its lead. They coughed up the ball thanks to a double team by Hoffman and Zukowski. On its next possession, a Coventry player turned the ball due to some defensive pressure from Zukowski.
With 34 seconds remaining, Zukowski drove to the basket and was tripped. But his arcing shot went through the net to the game at 51-51.
In overtime, Coventry took a 55-53 lead with 2:11 left when Sam Green got past Cam Daley and drove to the basket. Daley missed a shot at the other end and the Patriots grabbed the rebound.
But Zukowski stole the ball and fed the ball to Hoffman, who scored on a layup to tie the game at 55 all with 1:31 remaining. As Coventry tried to inbound the ball, it was stolen by Hoffman, who spun and laid in a one-handed basket with 1:19 to go. Canton led 57-55.
On the next possession, Coventry tried to lob the ball into the paint. Zukowski intercepted the ball. A few seconds later, he was on the line and sank two free throws, extending Canton’s lead to four points, 59-55. Zukowski sank six of nine free throws in the game, including six of eight attempts in OT.
“That’s a learning experience for us,” Archambault said. “We have to continue to execute.”
Canton received a balanced effort. Cam Daley led the Warriors with 10 points while Hoffman scored nine. Ben Sullivan (two 3-point goals), Zukowski and Lange each had eight points.
For Coventry, Chris Buhr had a game-high 18 points while Grope scored 14. The Patriots sank 13-of-17 fouls shots but it wasn’t enough. The loss eliminates the Patriots (2-13, 2-8 NCCC) from state tournament consideration.
Canton 63, Coventry 59
Coventry (59) Ben Norstrom 0-0-0, Chris Buhr 6 5-6 18, Clark Loriccio 1-0-2, Alex Bootin 0-0-0, Devan Valdes 2 4-7 8, Chris Grope 5 3-3 14, Reed Hoffman 0-0-0, Jake Jeroszko 0-0-0, Sam Green 3 1-1 7. Totals 17 13-17 59
Canton (63) Rieley Hoffman 3 2-4 9, Alex Daley 3 0-2 7, Ben Sullivan 3-0-8, Andrew Zukowski 1 6-9 8, Jake Wood 2 2-4 6, Cam Daley 5 0-1 10, Cam Lange 2 4-6 8, Shane Toland 3-0-6. Totals 22 14-26 63
Coventry (2-12) 5 8 10 18 8 – 59
Canton (8-6) 16 13 12 10 12 – 63
Three-point goals: Hoffman (Can), A. Daley (Can), Sullivan (Can) 2, Buhr (Cov), Grope (Cov)
Canton 70, Hartford Classical 57
Classical (57): Tim Flynn 8-4-23, Jermaine MacDonald 4-0-12, Leroy Collier 3-0-9, Quentin Kelly 1-2-4, Jameal Cushnie 3-1-7, Malik McKenzie 1-0-2. Totals 20-7-57
Canton (70) Rieley Hoffman 1-3-5, Alex Daley 0-2-2, Andrew Zukowski 8-1-17, Jake Wood 3-2-9, Ben Sullivan 2-0-6, Cam Daley 5-4-14, Cameron Lange 5-4-15, Shane Toland 1-0-2. Totals 25-16-70
Classical (4-8) 10 12 16 19 – 57
Canton (9-6) 19 14 17 20 – 70
Three-point goals: Flynn (HC) 3, MacDonald (HC) 4, Collier (HC) 3, Wood (C), Sullivan (C) 2, Lange (C)