EAST GRANBY, Feb. 16 – The celebration may have been small on the court but you couldn’t hide the smiles from the faces of the players on the Canton High boys basketball team Thursday night after they clinched their first league championship banner since 1982 with a 55-33 win over East Granby.
The Warriors celebrated with a bit more gusto in the locker room. Several loud cheers of celebration could be heard on the court. Several bars of Queen’s We Are the Champions anthem could be heard through the locker room walls.
Canton’s win over the host Crusaders gave the Warriors their first-ever North Central Connecticut Conference title. It’s the first championship for Canton since they won the Northwest Conference Division II crown in 1982 and just the fifth pennant for the program since 1963.
Craig Archambault, the fifth-year head coach of the Warriors, smiled and was at a loss for words about what it all meant. “They did it for their town. They did it for their community. They should be proud,” he said. “It really hasn’t set in. We still have a lot to focus on. At the end of the year, it will sink in how far we have come.
He paused a second. “It’s pretty awesome,” he said with a big grin.
Senior Ethan Burke said, “This is very special. We’ve waiting all (through) the off season. To come back and win a conference championship … It is an awesome experience. Everyone in the locker room was so excited.”
A year ago, the Warriors won 17 games in the entire season. They made it to the finals of the NCCC Tournament where they lost on a buzzer-beating shot against East Windsor on this same East Granby floor. Canton graduated six players from that squad. “That was a very talented group,” Archambault said. “This is a different group. I knew we would be better defensively and we are. This is a tougher group that finishes games.”
In mid-January, the Warriors trailed Sport Medicine Science Academy by 12 points with 3:15 left in the third quarter. But Canton rallied to beat the Tigers, on the road, by three. The Warriors beat Suffield on the road for the first time in years in an 18-point victory. They outlasted Somers, 62-60 in early January.
Canton has survived injuries to starters Tim Keating, Ryan Enns and Luke Brown. All three have missed games. Yet, the Warriors are 17-3 and 15-1 in the NCCC. It’s just the third time in Canton’s long basketball history that dates back to 1921 that the Warriors have won at least 17 games in the regular season.
“It’s not just one guy,” Archambault said. “We can move the ball. We have three or four guys who can get double figures each night. Sometimes, we struggle to score so our staple is defense and defense keeps you in games.”
Junior Ryan Enns had a team-leading 14 points on Thursday for Canton, including 10 at halftime. Burke had 12 points and three 3-point goals. Junior Jack Mansur had 10 points and a pair of three-point shots.
Enns had 24 points in a 42-point win over East Windsor on Monday while Burke had 21 in a 52-39 win over Hartford Classical a week ago, holding the Gladiators to a season-low 39 points. Sophomore Grant Lange had a team-leading 15 points in a 53-35 win over Windsor Locks earlier this month. Freshman Jack Rose scored 16 in a big win over Gilbert. Keating had 16 points in a two-point over Somers in early January.
“The biggest difference (between this year and last year) is our toughness and chemistry which you don’t see in the stats,” Ethan Burke said. “We’re a better defensive team than we were last year and our chemistry is awesome when adversity strikes. We can overcome because people help each other.”
Canton overwhelmed East Granby (2-15) in the second quarter, turning a three-point lead into a 15-point advantage with a 14-2 surge. Mansur had eight of his 10 points in the first half while Enns and Burke each had 10 points each in the opening two quarters. Enns finished with 14 points while Burke finished with 12.
Canton will now prepare for next week’s NCCC Tournament where the Warriors will be the top seed.
NOTES: The only seasons that Canton 17 or more games in the regular season came in 2009 when the Warriors were 19-1 and 1981 when Canton went 17-3. .. The Warriors have won seven of their last eight games. The only loss was a 44-42 non-league loss to Rockville on Tuesday night. The Rams will be joining the NCCC next fall. … The Warriors won the Northwest Conference Division II titles in 1977, 1981 and 1982. They also won a Northwest Conference championship in 1963. … Canton and SMSA could finish tied at 15-1 in the league if the Tigers win their two remaining NCCC contests but Canton gets the nod as league champion thanks to their 59-56 win over SMSA on January 13.
Canton 55, East Granby 33
At East Granby
Canton (55) Chris Tenczar 1-0-3, Luke Brown 0-0-0, Jack Mansur 4-0-10, Ryan Enns 5-4-14, Ethan Burke 3-3-12, Nick Amrose 1-0-2, Tim Keating 3-0-6, Matt Rose 1-0-2, Grant Lange 1-0-2, Ian Witzgall 1-0-2, Mitch Cormier 0-0-0, Josh Powell 1-0-2, Jack Rose 0-0-0. Totals 21-7-55
East Granby (33) Jon Wilson 2-0-4, Jameson Gill 2-6-10, Ryan Vangas 1-0-2, Justin Lachaite 2-2-6, Austin Phillips 3-0-6, Keegan May 1-0-3. Totals 12-8-33
Canton (17-3) 8 22 10 15 — 55
East Granby (2-15) 6 9 9 9 — 33
Three-point goals: Manzur (C) 2, Burke (C) 3, May (EG)