UNCASVILLE >> No. 3 Canton ended No. 1 Thomaston’s two-year reign as Class S girls basketball champion with a 64-41 win at the Mohegan Sun Saturday morning.
Last year, the same two teams defended each other to a two-point win for the Golden Bears on a last-minute steal by Gabrielle Hurlbert.
This year, Thomaston shots didn’t fall in a close first half; the Bears’ aggressive defense did them in in the second.
Three top Thomaston players – Morgan Sanson, Hurlbert and Casey Carangelo – fouled out in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors outscored Thomaston 28-11 from the foul line.
“I was surprised,” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said. “Three refs (in state final games) can help or hurt. Today, they helped us and hurt them.”
Canton’s top scorers, Margaret Treacy and Emily Briggs, scored 25 and 18 points, respectively. Each of them had 12 from the foul line on a combined 24-for-31 tries.
“We fouled,” Thomaston coach Bob McMahon said. “They got in our face and made us uncomfortable. It was the best defense we’ve seen all year.”
The difference was, the Thomaston defense was more physical.
“Canton played great,” Hurlbert said. “It wasn’t our year. Nothing worked for us. Nothing fell.”
“Today was not our day,” Sanson said. “Canton did great.”
Part of it for Canon, too, was coming so close last year in the Warriors’ first finals appearance since 1999. Like Thomaston, most of the Warrior stars were back on the court Saturday.
“We tried to calm ourselves,” Briggs said. “Last year, nerves got the best of us.”
“A lot of people wrote us off,” Medeiros said. “A lot of people facing Thomaston lose before they start. Last year, we were deer in the headlights. This year, we wanted to start out strong.”
The Warriors worked through a foul and two turnovers in the first two-and-a-half minutes, behind just 4-0 on a pair of layups by Hurlbert (10 points). Then Briggs and Treacy scored six of Canton’s first eight points, pulling into an 8-6 lead on Treacy’s first pair of foul shots.
“Emily and Maggie are the perfect one-two punch,” Medeiros said.
The Bears have punches of their own.
Julia Quinn (team-high 17 points) drove for an 8-8 tie at the end of the first quarter. Six-foot center Carangelo (10 points) turned her own put-back into a three-point play for a 12-9 Thomaston lead early in the second.
Canton stayed calm. The Warriors had been here before.
Treacy tied it with a three. Thomaston’s Sanson (9 points) drove to regain the lead. Briggs went to the foul line for two. By the half, Canton led 22-19.
Those who wrote off the Warriors expected a Golden Bear surge at the start of the second half. After all, the only first-half three fell for Treacy. A year, ago Thomaston’s Nicole Schaefer, Sanson and Quinn buried six of them for the Bears.
Instead, Canton came out of the locker room to an 8-2 run, including a three by Emma Charron (10 points).
At 30-21, naysayers and perhaps the Bears themselves began to have doubts. When Thomaston gets in trouble, its defense steps up. So did the referees’ whistles.
Carangelo brought the Bears back to 30-24 on a layup, then picked up her third foul on a three-point play by Treacy.
Schaefer, often the Thomaston spark from outside, hit her first three of the game with 4:30 left in the third period.
A pair of foul shots by Hurlbert closed the Bears to 35-29,
This year, the Warriors weren’t having it.
Treacy launched a 7-4 run to the end of the period, five of her points from the foul line.
Canton led 42-33 at the end of the third. Tough defense only led Warriors to the foul line. The inside was closed off for the Bears. The only avenue left came from outside.
Briggs started the fourth period with four straight foul shots. Sanson, a key Thomaston defender fouled out on the next play.
Quinn, another Thomaston outside hope, came through for seven points, pulling the Bears to 49-42, 3:53 left.
Carangelo’s third try on a put-back closed to 49-44, 3:05 left.
It looked like the Bears’ time.
Instead, Hurlbert fouled out five seconds later. Carangelo followed with 2:22 left, Canton leading 53-45.
The Bears had one last weapon – a full-court press.
When Skinner caught a long pass for an easy layup, 58-48, the Bears and the clock, with 46 seconds left, were out of time.
No. 3 Canton 64, No. 1 Thomaston 51
At Mohegan Sun Arena
Canton 8 14 20 22 – 64
Thomaston 8 11 14 18 – 51
Canton (64): Abigail Skinner 6-0-13; Emma Charron 1-1-3; Carly Atkinson 0-1-1; Emily Briggs 3-12-18; Maggie Treacy 6-12-25; Belle Magana 1-2-4; Leah Eachenbrenner 0-0-0; Sarah Bowman 0-0-0; Courtney LeFave 0-0-0; Totals: 17-28-64.
Thomaston (51): Nicole Schaefer 1-0-3; Gabrielle Hurlbert 3-4-10; Morgan Sanson 3-3-9; Charlotte Eberhardt 1-0-2; Casey Carangelo 4-2-10; Julia Quinn 6-2-17; Danielle Genest 0-0-0; Alex Sanson 0-0-0; Camryn Capaldo 0-0-0; Alexa Milius 0-0-0; Kaitlyn Root 0-0-0; Samantha Brostek 0-0-0; Totals: 18-11-51.
3-point goals: C – Skinner; Treacy. T – Schaefer; Quinn 3.
Records: Canton 22-6; Thomaston 26-2.