CANTON – The Avon High girls basketball team continues to integrate 6-foot-3 junior Abby Laszewski back into the lineup. Laszewski scored a game-high 20 points including nine in the second quarter as the Falcons moved into the NCCC Tournament championship game with a 60-45 semifinal win over Enfield Tuesday night.
The Falcons, who shared the league championship with Canton, will face Bolton, who will be making its second-ever appearance in Thursday’s NCCC final at SMSA in Hartford at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs led from virtually start to finish Tuesday to beat the Warriors, 53-47 in the other semifinal contest in Canton.
Canton led just once with 1:15 remaining in the game when sophomore Emily Briggs sank a pair of free throws to give the Warriors a one-point lead. But Bolton junior Jessica Larsh was outstanding on the foul line sinking eight free throws in the final minute to lift the Bulldogs (19-3).
Canton and Enfield will meet Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. in the tournament consolation game.
Laszewski missed 18 of 20 regular season games this year due to a foot injury she sustained playing volleyball for Avon this fall. She had 10 points in her season debut against Stafford and added 11 playing East Windsor. In the NCCC Tournament quarterfinals, she chipped in with 15 points with seven rebounds.
She was more of a presence Tuesday against the Raiders and 6-foot-3 freshman Mary Baskerville. Laszewski had nine points of her game-high 20 in the second quarter as the Falcons (18-4) built a comfortable lead.
“She’s getting better every day,” Avon coach Frank Waters said. “This was her best game yet. She still gets tired and missed a few passes but she’s getting there.”
Laszewski gives Avon a dominant inside presence but her teammates still managed to win 15 of 18 games without her. Guard Michaela Marcus had 14 points for the Falcons against Enfield while Kaleigh Sherman added nine.
Avon led 30-14 at halftime and extended the lead to 20 points in the third quarter. Behind the three-point shooting of another Enfield freshman Daniello Delano (20 points), the Raiders cut the lead to nine points with 4:50 remaining but Shannon Curry scored on a nice baseline move and Laszewski scored in the lane, was fouled and sank the free throw to push the lead back to 14 points.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Waters said. “We were active in the zone, got a lot of deflections and a lot of steals.”
In its final year in the North Central Connecticut Conference, Avon will be looking for its 12th NCCC Tournament title in 16 appearances. A year ago, the Falcons beat Bolton in the NCCC final, 43-26.
Bolton (19-3) earned another shot at the championship with a strong defensive performance against Canton, which is 4-3 after beginning the season with 15 consecutive wins.
“We didn’t use the press that we normally use,” Bolton coach Wayne Hapgood said. “We thought that the half court pressure would be effective and it was.”
Canton (19-3) trailed 7-4 after one quarter and was behind by four, 16-12 with a minute left in the second quarter. Sparked by Marissa Gudauskas with 17 points and a pair of three-point goals, the Bulldogs led by as many as nine points in the third quarter, 34-25.
“We were definitely out of sync (offensively),” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said. “I don’t know why the man to man defense bothered us as much as it did. There was a lot of standing around and a lack of movement.”
Canton refused to wilt. Led by Gabby Rose with a team-high 15 points, the Warriors rallied in the fourth quarter. Maggie Treacy drove to the basket with 3:18 remaining to cut the lead to three, 41-38. After an Emily Briggs block turned in a turnover, Briggs drove to the basket with 2:51 left to cut the lead to one, 41-40.
After Larsh sank two free throws, Treacy drove to the basket again to reduce the lead to one, 43-42. On Bolton’s next possession, Treacy stole the ball and on the ensuing possession, Briggs was fouled. She sank two free throws with 1:15 left for Canton’s first and only lead of the game, 44-43.
Bolton stiffened. On Canton’s next three possessions, they forced a pair of turnovers and on the third possession, they pulled down the rebound after a rushed shot. The Bulldogs were 10-of-10 from the line in the final minute.
“It was disheartening,” Mederios said. “To come out as slow as we did, to come all the way back and take the lead. It looked like we did enough to pull it off. We had a goal of making the finals. This one will sting.”
Briggs had 14 points for Canton while Treacy added 11. For Bolton, which drained five three-point shots, Julia Hinckley had 11 points and Jessica Larsh had 16, including 10 from the charity stripe.
Bolton 53, Canton 47
Bolton (53): Taylor Marshall 0-0-0, Jessica Larsh 3-10-16, Rose Zimmerman 1-0-2, Jenna Ethridge 0-0-0, Molly Belekewicz 2-1-7. Jordan D’Amico 0-0-0, Marissa Gudauskas 6-3-17, Julia Hinckley 5-0-11. Totals 17-14-53
Canton (47): Katie Walker 1-1-3, Jacquie Grabowski 0-2-2, Emily Briggs 4-6-14, Maggie Treacy 5-1-11, Gabby Rose 6-3-15, Emma Charron 1-0-2, Abbie Skinner 0-0-0, Carly Atkinson 0-0-0. Totals 17-13-47
Bolton (19-3) 7 11 16 19 – 53
Canton (19-3) 4 12 11 20 – 47
Three-point goals: Belekewicz (B) 2, Gudauskas (B) 2, Hinckley (B)
Avon 60, Enfield 45
Enfield (45): Hannah Lempitsky 3-0-6, Erica Lovering 0-0-0, Christina Leonardo 1-2-4, Olivia Caronna 1-0-2, Taylor Poletti 0-0-0, Danielle Delano 7-1-20, Mary Baskerville 3-5-11, Regina LeBlance 0-2-2. Totals 15-10-45
Avon (60): Michaela Marcus 3-6-14, Kaleigh Sherman 4-1-9, Abby Laszewski 7-6-20, Olivia Welter 3-1-7, Shannon Curry 2-1-5, Alex Benedict 0-0-0, Kelly Lamarre 2-0-5, Carly Carpino 0-0-0. Totals 21-15-60
Enfield (16-6) 9 5 15 16 – 45
Avon (18-4) 15 15 11 19 – 60
Three-point goals: Marcus (A) 2, Lamarre (A), Delano (E) 5
Recent NCCC Tournament championship games
2014: Avon 43, Bolton 26
2013: Ellington 59, Avon 56
2012: Ellington 48, Suffield 45
2011: Ellington 60, East Granby 45
2010: Avon 54, Ellington 47
2009: Avon 33, Tolland 21