SIMSBURY, March 10 – It wasn’t a work of art. But it was good enough.
For both teams in Friday night’s Class S girls basketball semifinal, there were many missed shots – some from point-blank range. Defending Class S champion Canton and Housatonic each struggled from the free throw line, combining to miss 24 shots.
But No. 3 Canton had All-State forward Emily Briggs, who scored a game-high 21 points, and made enough plays to beat Housatonic, 41-32, at Simsbury High and advance to the Class S finals for the third consecutive year.
The Warriors (22-4) will face Thomaston for the third straight time in the final at the Mohegan Sun Arena next weekend on either Friday or Saturday. The No. 5 Bears, who beat Sacred Heart, 61-28, to earn a spot in the Class S final for the fifth consecutive year, beat Canton in the 2015 championship game while the Warriors won a year ago.
“It feels amazing,” Canton senior Abbe Skinner said. “We’re very excited to go (to the finals) and see Thomaston again.” Added junior guard Belle Magna, “It’s an incredible feeling.”
Canton limited Housatonic to a season-low 32 points. Not only did Briggs have 21 points but she pulled down 14 rebounds and had four blocks. Sarah Bowman pulled down nine rebounds and blocked seven shots. Freshman guard Abby Charron had four points, four assists and two steals. Skinner had five points and six rebounds.
“We all struggled tonight and it showed on the floor,” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said. “But we came together in spurts at both ends of the floor. At the end of the day, we had a few more points.”
Both teams were hampered with numerous fouls. The Mountaineers (23-4) had three players foul out in the fourth quarter. Canton had three starters – Briggs, Skinner and Charron – that played much of the fourth quarter with four fouls. The Mountaineers missed 18 foul shots, Canton missed 15. There were 23 held or jump balls.
“It was a sloppily played game but you can’t dispute how hard they worked, the energy and the passion they played well,” Medeiros said. “It was just poorly executed.”
Canton finished the first quarter with a 5-0 surge in the final 1:20 to take the lead for good at 9-6. Belle Magna hit a jumper with 1:20 left, Lauren Eschenbrenner hit a foul shot with 26 seconds remaining in the quarter and drove the baseline for a basket with 5.3 seconds to go in the quarter. It was Magna who quickly brought the ball up court for Eschenbrenner.
Housatonic cut the Canton lead to four, 16-12 when Alison Holmes put back a rebound in the lane with 3:47 left in the second quarter but Skinner drained a three-pointer to extend the lead to seven. Eschenbrenner sank a pair of foul shots and Magna sank one to extend the lead to 22-13. Briggs drained a three-point shot from the top of the key for a 25-13 lead with 59 seconds left in the first half.
Canton led by eight at halftime, 25-17. The Mountaineers cut the lead to seven when Chloe Dakers drained a three-point shot with 1:58 left in the third quarter to cut the Canton lead to seven, 31-24.
Skinner picked up her fourth foul with 1:59 left in the third quarter while Briggs picked up her fourth foul with 59 seconds left in the quarter. Charron picked up her fourth with 5:42 left in the game.
But since Canton had a lead, the Warriors began to pass the ball around the perimeter with 4:30 remaining to try and run some time off the clock.
Housatonic wasn’t as fortunate. They had to continue to be aggressive in their quest to force turnovers. Mountaineer starters Olivia Forstmann, Dakers and Amanda Jacquier all fouled out of the game in the final 3:20. Canton sank eight of 14 foul shots in the final 2:54 to secure the victory.
“We didn’t play our greatest,” Briggs said. “But you can’t get down when you’re missing shots. You’re going to miss shots. We had to keep our heads up.”
The team is the second Canton program to play in three consecutive championship games. The Canton field hockey team played in three straight Class S finals in 1985-87. … This was the deepest that the Mountaineers have ever gotten in the Class S basketball tournament. … This was the first game between the two schools since Canton beat the Mountaineers in the second round of the 1999 Class S tournament, 58-52.
Canton 41, Housatonic 32
Canton (41) Abbe Skinner 1 2-7 5, Belle Magna 1 3-4 5, Abby Charron 1 2-4 4, Emily Briggs 6 8-12 21, Leah Eschenbrenner 0-0-0, Grace Treacy 0-0-0, Lauren Eschenbrenner 1 3-4 5, Sarah Bowman 0 1-4 1. Totals 10 19-35 41
Housatonic (32) Chloe Dakers 2 0-0 6, Kailyn Reilly 0 0-0 0, Caroline Hurlburt 1 4-9 6, Amanda Jacquier 1 0-1 2, Alison Holmes 3 2-8 8, Emily Geyselaers 4 0-4 8, Christina Winburn 0 0-0 0, Olivia Forstmann 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 6-24 32
Canton (22-4) 9 16 6 10 – 41
Housatonic (23-4) 6 11 7 8 – 32
Three-point goals: Skinner (C), Briggs (C), Dakers (H) 2
— CT Sports Now (@CT_Sports_Now) March 11, 2017