EAST GRANBY, March 3 – Two days earlier, the Canton High boys basketball team survived three overtimes to beat league co-champion Hartford Classical and earn a spot in the NCCC Tournament championship game against East Windsor.
With 2.8 seconds and the scored tied, it looked like another overtime session was looming.
Then, East Windsor freshman Marcus Goss got the ball.
Senior A.J. Ouimet was looking to inbound the ball to Panther senior Tristin Givings. He wasn’t open. Ouimet got it to Goss, who quickly took off upcourt. He let the ball fly from about 30 feet away and banked the ball off the backboard and into the net to lift East Windsor to a 57-54 victory over Canton in the 43rd annual NCCC Tournament Thursday night at East Granby High.
The Panthers scored five points in the final 22 seconds to grab the victory and capture the NCCC Tournament for the second time in three years. East Windsor beat Granby in overtime for the 2014 title. The Warriors were stunned.
“I was thinking please go in, please go in, please go in,” Goss said. “I was so happy I could help my team win.”
Goss scored 15 points and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. At one point early in the fourth quarter, he had scored six consecutive points for the Panthers.
“He’s been playing here and there and tonight he had the opportunity to play and he got some great minutes and played well,” East Windsor coach Mike Barile said. “He’s the fastest player on the court. He got the ball and got the shot off.”
Canton (16-7) was looking to win their first-ever NCCC Tournament title and had been soundly beaten in their previous three title game appearances. This game was different and a hard-fought, physical battle throughout.
East Windsor had its largest lead of the game, 40-34, with 7:12 left in game when Goss blew past a defender for a layup. The freshman had scored eight of East Windsor’s last 10 points. But Canton dug in and took the lead with a 10-1 run.
Canton’s Ethan Burke hit a basket in the lane and Rieley Hoffman drove to the basket for another two points. All-NCCC forward Cameron Lange drained a pair of three-point shots and the Warriors had a 44-41 lead with 4:44 remaining.
East Windsor quickly took the lead again when Ouimet scored on a fast break and Johan Gil-Guerro drained a three-pointer and everyone knew this was going down to the wire.
With 1:26 remaining, East Windsor’s Givins sank two free throws to tie the game at 52-52. With 50 seconds left, Burke drove into the lane, put up an underhanded shot and scored to give Canton a 54-52 advantage.
With 22 seconds left, Givins got a key rebound off a miss from Goss in the lane and scored to tie the game at 54-54. Canton called timeout with 14.7 seconds remaining but when the Warriors ran the play there was a miscommunication and a turnover with 2.8 seconds left on a bad pass.
That set the stage for Goss.
The idea was to get the ball to Givins, who could race up the sideline and try to make a play. But it went to Goss. “I told him to get the ball and attack,” Barile said. “Either pass it or shoot it and he shot it. I couldn’t believe it went in. I was stunned.”
So were the Warriors, who lost another heartbreaker. “The kids have nothing to hand their heads about,” Canton coach Craig Archambault said. “They lost on a half court bank shot.”
Lange led all scorers with 18 points, including three 3-point shots. Burke had 11 points and Azon Click had eight off the bench, including a pair of three point shots.
Givins led East Windsor with 16 points while Ouimet added 12 and Gil Guerro scored 10.
East Windsor, the seventh seed in the tournament, won four games to capture the NCCC Tournament for the fourth time. They beat Enfield, 57-49 in the first round, topped Suffield in the quarterfinals, 54-37 and outlasted league co-champion SMSA in double overtime in the semifinals, 63-60.
“We’ve been up and down all season but I told the kids that if we play to our abilities, we can play with anyone,” Barile said. East Windsor has won its last six games.
Canton played with confidence throughout the game. “These kids game their community something to root for tonight, something to make them proud,” Archambault said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
East Windsor led 7-4 after one period with Lange scoring two field goals for the Warriors.
In the second quarter, Canton’s defensive pressure began to pay dividends. Hoffman had a steal and a basket, Lange and Burke each drove to the basket to score while Jake Schaetzel scored two baskets in the lane. Azon Click came off the bench to hit a three-pointer. Canton led at halftime, 23-20.
“I have to give Canton credit,” Barile said. “They played hard. They’re a tough matchup for us. They have seniors like we do and they can shoot and drive to the rim. We’re very similar in a lot of ways. It just came down executing down the stretch.”
Both teams will be playing in next week’s Class S tournament with Canton hosting Putnam and the Panthers hosting Capital Prep on Monday.
NOTES: Hoffman and Lange were named to the All-Tournament along with East Windsor’s Goss, Givins and Gil Guerro. … Canton was making its first appearance in the NCCC Tournament championship game since 2009. The Warriors are now 0-4 in NCCC Tournament title games but this was the closest score. Canton lost to Avon (2009), Windsor Locks (1996) and Suffield (1985) by 16, 16 and 20 points, respectively. … In the tournament consolation game, SMSA beat Classical, 46-34. … East Windsor is now 4-3 in the NCCC Tournament final. … Lange was the only Canton player named to the All-NCCC team.
East Windsor 57, Canton 54
At East Granby
East Windsor (57) Marcus Goss 6-2-15, Chris Patenaude 0-0-0, Tristin Givins 6-2-16, A.J. Ouimet 5-2-12, Dejoir Farley 1-0-2, Johan Gil Guerro 4-0-10, Tyrell Hudson 0-2-2. Totals 23-8
Canton (54) Rieley Hoffman 3-0-6, Azon Click 3-0-8, Luke Brown 1-0-2, Jake Schaetzel 4-1-9, Ethan Burke 4-3-11, Cameron Lange 6-3-18, Cam Neeley 0-0-0, Adam Eytan 0-0-0. Totals 21-7
East Windsor (17-7) 7 13 18 19 — 57
Canton (16-7) 4 19 11 20 – 54
Three-point goals: Gil-Guerre (EW) 2, Givins (EW) 2, Goss (EW), Click (C) 2, Lange (C) 3
Friday, Feb. 26
Ellington 60, Somers 50
East Windsor 57, Enfield 49
Saturday, Feb. 27
Hartford Classical 47, Ellington 45
Canton 59, Granby 51
East Windsor 54, Suffield 37
SMSA 62, Windsor Locks 50
Tuesday, March 1
Canton 74, Hartford Classical 68, 3 OT
East Windsor 63, SMSA 60, 2 OT
Thursday, March 3
East Windsor 57, Canton 54
SMSA 46, Classical 34
2016 NCCC final standings
Team NCCC Overall
x-Classical 13-3 16-4
x-SMSA 13-3 17-3
Suffield 12-4 15-5
Granby 12-4 15-5
Windsor Locks 11-5 13-7
Canton 10-6 14-6
East Windsor 10-6 13-7
Ellington 9-7 10-10
Somers 8-8 12-8
Enfield 7-9 9-11
East Granby 4-12 6-14
Coventry 2-14 4-16
Stafford 1-15 2-16
Bolton 0-16 0-20
x-shared league championship