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Canton boys look for challenges to meet in new season

CANTON, Dec. 20 –The Canton High boys basketball team has been eliminated from the CIAC Class S tournament the past two years by a quick Kolbe Cathedral team from Bridgeport. Last March, the Warriors took Kolbe into overtime before dropping a quarterfinal decision.

So Canton head coach Eric Deegan has increased the difficulty of the schedule this winter to prepare for quick teams like Kolbe, Capital Prep and Hartford Classical out of Hartford or Hyde in New Haven.

Canton, which had a 19-1 record a year ago in the regular season, is playing two games with Avon and faces Bloomfield (2009 Class M finalist) for the first time since 1960 on Tuesday, Dec. 29 at home.

A year ago, Canton had only one regularly scheduled game with Avon, now a Class L school. Deegan also scheduled a scrimmage against Simsbury (Class LL) earlier this month that was, unfortunately, cancelled due to snow. The idea is to expose the Warriors to the more of the pressure defenses that they have seen deep in the Class S tournament.

“The challenge is to handle the pressure that those teams will present to us,” Deegan said. “If you can run your offense against teams like that (Avon, Bloomfield) and get off some quality shots, you’ll always be in the game.”

Speed and quickness will be the strength of this Warrior team that returns three starters but is not very big after the graduation of 6-foot-6 All-State center Chris Robitaille, now at Eastern Connecticut State. “Our team speed is our biggest asset,” Deegan said. “We hope to get a lot of transition baskets.”

Senior All-State forward Andrew Crowley returns along with senior James Rosshirt and Connor Smyth. Junior Nick Quattro and Mike Pepin have taken the other spots in the starting five. Senior Mike Setzler is still recovering from injuring his ankle during the summer and hopes to rejoin the team in a few weeks.

Crowley had a career-high 32 points in Canton’s 86-63 victory over Portland last week to open the season – its sixth straight opening night victory. Crowley had 24 points in the first half. Smyth added 16 while Pepin scored 15 – also career-highs for both players. The Warriors got out quickly, taking a 31-14 lead after one quarter.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: A strong first half effort lifted Canton (2-0) to a 56-38 win over Somers last week, playing without All-State guard Sarah Bendetti, who turned an ankle early in the game. The Warriors led 41-19 at halftime. Danielle Coutu led Canton with 18 points while Kathryn Curvino added 12.

In Canton’s 54-18 season opening win over East Windsor, Bendetti led the way with a career-high 32 points and six three-point goals. Her previous high was 31 points against Grasso Tech in the 2008 Class S playoff victory.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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