CANTON, March 7 – The Canton High boys basketball team got back to playing the sport they love on Tuesday night.
The last time that the Warriors were on the court they dropped a hard-fought one-point loss to Hartford Classical in the semifinals of the NCCC Tournament. Canton nearly erased an 11-point lead in the final 2:43. They cut it to two points but couldn’t get the equalizer.
It was a disappointing defeat for the Warriors who won their first league championship in 35 years and had hoped to add the NCCC Tournament trophy to their collection as well.
But for the past week, there has been little talk about what happened on the floor. Discussion has been dominated by the action of a group of students who chanted Trump, Trump, Trump in the first half referring to President Donald Trump. An assembly was held in Canton the next day to address the issue, a letter was sent home to high school parents and an apology was sent to Classical.
It ignited a firestorm of debate in town and around the country.
On Tuesday night, the focus was on the hardwood. Canton’s Ryan Enns tied a career-high with 24 points as the No. 2 Warriors beat No. 31 St. Bernard’s-Uncasville, 55-27 in a first round Class S tournament contest. Canton (19-4) advances and will host No. 15 Amistad-New Haven (13-8) on Thursday night at 7 p.m. here in Canton.
“The kids needed it,” Canton coach Craig Archambault said. “They needed to be back here playing back in the gym with a great atmosphere in a doubleheader with the girls team and a great crowd.”
The game was the opener of a doubleheader. In the nightcap, the Canton High girls basketball advanced to the Class S semifinals for the third consecutive year with a 54-25 win over Windsor Locks.
“I’ve told the guys since I have started (coaching here in Canton) that the gym is the happiest place in the world,” he said. “Basketball is a great thing. You can take your mind off other things and use it as an outlet.”
When Archambault was asked about the chants that occurred in this gym, he said, “It had nothing to do with the game. It had nothing to do with how my kids conduct themselves on the court. It had nothing to do with how we respect the Classical program. (Classical) coach (Reggie) Tucker is a Canton graduate and I absolutely love him to death. We’re great friends and both teams played with sportsmanship on that night.”
Canton captain Ethan Burke said the team focused on the game at hand. “We wanted to stay hungry and show Class S what we are made of and that we are a legitimate contender,” he said.
Canton led 23-18 at halftime only to see visiting St. Bernard cut the lead to two points, 25-23 before Burke drained a three-point goal to extend the lead to five.
St. Bernard (11-13), which had won three straight to win the Eastern Connecticut Conference’s Division II tournament, cut the lead to three points on a pair of foul shots with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
But the Warriors clamped down on the Saints, allowing just one field goal in the final 13:30 of the game. Canton outscored St. Bernard, 27-2 in that span. The Saints went scoreless in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been struggling a bit with our offense lately but we made up for it with our pressure defense,” Burke said. “We were very active and got a lot of turnovers that led to easy buckets.”
Enns’ defensive efforts helped as well. “Ryan is our bulldog, our energy man,” Burke said. “When he starts getting steals and deflections, he gets the whole team pumped up. We feed off him sometimes.”
Leading by three, Burke drained a three-point shot to extend the Canton lead to 31-25 with 4:18 left in the third quarter. After a Saint turnover, Enns drove the baseline for two points and a 33-25 edge. He was fouled hard on the play and sank a foul shot for a 34-25 lead.
St. Bernard’s Maxwell Lee took down Enns hard on the play and tried to help him up. Canton’s Luke Brown gave him a light shove and was called for technical foul. St. Bernard’s Hunter Baillargeon sank both foul shots with 1:52 left in the third quarter to cut the Canton lead to 34-27. It was the final points of the game for St. Bernard.
Enns had a three-point play in the lane with 1:12 left and Burke finished out the quarter with a baseline drive to the basket for a 12-point Canton lead, 39-27 after three quarters.
Canton outscored the Saints 16-0 in the fourth quarter with Enns scoring six points. Burke finished with 12 points for the Warriors.
It was the first-ever game between the two schools in basketball. … Thursday’s game with Amistad will also be the first-ever contest between Canton and the New Haven school in basketball.
Canton 55, St. Bernard 27
St. Bernard (27) Hunter Baillageon 2-2-7, Connor Suab 2-2-8, Cameron Beaudelt 0-0-0, Joseph Beltron 3-0-8, Jordan Shelton 0-0-0, De’Andre Williams 0-0-0, Brian Bergeron 0-0-0, Sam Davis 0-0-0, Joseph Ennis 0-0-0, Emmett Brady 0-0-0, Nathanial Avery 2-0-4, Maxwell Lee 0-0-0. Totals 9-4-27
Canton (55) Luke Brown 1-2-5, Jack Mansur 1-0-2, Ryan Enns 11-2-24, Thomas Amrose 0-0-0, Ethan Burke 4-2-12, Nicholas Amrose 0-0-0, Tim Keating 1-0-2, Matt Rose 2-0-4, Jack Rose 2-0-4, Josh Powell 1-0-2, Grant Lange 0-0-0. Totals 21-6-55St. Bernard (11-13) 10 8 9 0 – 27
Canton (19-4) 13 10 16 16 — 55
Three-point goals: Brown (C), Burke (C) 2, Baillageon (S), Suab (S) 2, Beltron (S) 2