CANTON, Feb. 28 – They were down by 10 points with 6:40 left in the game and trailed by 11 with 2:43 remaining. The Canton High boys basketball team never stopped fighting in Tuesday night’s NCCC Tournament semifinal against Hartford Classical.
The Warriors cut the lead to three points with 51 seconds remaining when Ryan Enns banked his own rebound off glass and into the net. Canton cut it to two with 18 seconds left on an Ethan Burke foul shot.
But the visiting Gladiators were able to make enough key plays in the final minutes to beat NCCC champion Canton, 48-47 and move onto the NCCC Tournament championship for the first time against cross-town rival Sport Medicine Science Academy.
Canton senior Ethan Burke literally carried the Warriors on his back – offensively – with a career-high 26 points and seven three-point field goals. Enns had nine points while Brown and Jack Rose added five points each.
“I’m proud of them,” Canton coach Craig Archambeault said. “To me, it is more about how we carry ourselves and they type of basketball we play. The kids never quit. They were down the entire game and never quit – even down to the last possession. There is no quit in them.”
Classical coach Reggie Tucker is a Canton High graduate who played here under long-time coach Bill Mudano. A year ago, his Gladiators were eliminated by Canton in the NCCC Tournament semifinals in triple overtime.
This year, Tucker’s squad was a young one with just one starter and one substitute back from last year’s team. The Warriors beat Classical earlier this year, 52-39, racing out to an early 12-0 lead.
“We watched the game film and we realized that Canton likes to drive (into the paint) and dish (pass),” Tucker said. “They’re a little hesitant to shoot from the outside. So, we tried to shrink the court, rebound and shorten the game a little.”
The Gladiators packed the paint with bodies. But they moved well to the ball and had plenty of hands flying in the face of the Canton players, forcing turnovers and tough shots. At one point in the fourth quarter, there was Enns grabbing a rebound in the paint surrounded by four Gladiator defenders.
But that gave Burke plenty of room to hit those big three-point shots that kept Canton (18-4) in the ballgame. Seven three-point shots was also a career high for Burke.
“He’s a senior who doesn’t want his season to end,” Archambault said. “I would go to war with that kids any day of the week. He’s the toughest kid I ever coached. He’s an incredible young man.”
Classical (17-5) led 9-7 after one quarter and had a one-point lead, 11-10, early in the second quarter. But they closed out the first half with a 14-5 surge fueled in part by turnovers they created and a fast break opportunities. Classical scored the final seven points of the second quarter for a 25-15 halftime lead.
Classical extended its lead to 11 points, 35-23 with 3:22 left in the third quarter and had an eight-point lead after three quarters, 37-29. Burke’s three-point shot with five seconds left cut the Gladiators’ lead to eight.
Canton cut the lead to four on Jack Rose’s drive to the basket with 4:47 remaining, 39-35. But Classical forced turnovers on three consecutive Canton possessions that led to six points and an 11-point lead with 3:18 left in the game, 46-35.
Yet, Canton continued to press. Burke hit a pair of three-point shots to cut the lead to five with 1:54 remaining. Enns grabbed his own rebound and scored with 51 seconds left to cut the lead to three, 46-43.
With 18.4 seconds left, Burke drove to the basket and was fouled. He sank one of two shots to trim the lead to two, 46-44.
With 16.6 seconds remaining, Classical’s Robert Simmons missed a foul shot but teammate Danny Campbell (13 points) got the rebound and was fouled. He sank two foul shots with 15.3 seconds left to extend the lead to four, 48-44.
Rose drained a three-point shot at the top of the key with 2.2 seconds left to cut the lead to one but Canton wasn’t able to get the ball back.
Canton will return to the court next week at the No. 2 seed in the Class S tournament where they will likely play Portland (8-12) at home in the first round, probably next Tuesday.
Hartford Classical 48, Canton 47
Hartford Classical (48) Jerod Frank 9-1-19, Tyreese Woods 2-1-5, Trainell Frank 2-0-4, Robert Simmons 3-0-7, Danny Campbell 3-7-13, Justin Ollier 0-0-0. Totals 19-9-48
Canton (47) Luke Brown 2-0-5, Jack Mansur 0-0-0, Ryan Enns 3-3-9, Ethan Burke 9-1-26, Tim Keating 0-0-0, Matt Rose 1-0-2, Mitchell Cormier 0-0-0, Jack Rose 2-0-5. Totals 17-4-47
Hartford Classical (17-5) 9 16 12 11 – 48
Canton (18-4) 7 8 14 18 – 47
Three-point goals: Simmons (HC), Brown (C), Burke (C) 7, Rose (C)
2017 NCCC Tournament
Friday, February 24
Canton 43, Somers 40, OT
Hartford Classical 61, Suffield 60
East Windsor 51, Windsor Locks 49
SMSA 67, Granby 44
Tuesday. Feb. 28
Hartford Classical 48, Canton 47
SMSA 68, East Windsor 61
Classical at SMSA, 7 p.m