UNCASVILLE, March 18 – With a little help from everyone, the Canton High girls basketball team won their second straight Class S state championship Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena with a 60-51 win over Thomaston.
All-State forward Emily Briggs had a game-high 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. But she didn’t do it alone. Freshman point guard Abby Charron had 15 points and six assists.
Junior guard Belle Magna came off the bench to play outstanding defense and chip with 10 points of her own. Six-foot-3 sophomore center Sarah Bowman scored just two points and pulled down six rebounds. But she had three blocks and forced Thomaston’s leading scorer Casey Carangelo to alter her shots – a contributing factor in a 5-for-21 shooting performance.
“All of these kids had to come in this year and find a role, a niech and play to it. Because if we didn’t, this never would have been possible,” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said. “I’m so proud of all of the kids because they came together as a team. We needed to depend on the person to the right and depend on the person to the left.”
It was the third straight year that the two teams had met in the championship game – the first time in CIAC history that had occurred in the boys and/or girls basketball tournaments. The Bears won by two points in 2015 while Canton won their first-ever state title a year ago.
“This is absolutely amazing,” Canton’s Abbe Skinner said. “The first (state title) was amazing. This shows how good we are as a team and how good a coach (Medeiros) is.”
On Saturday, excellent defense helped the No. 3 Warriors (23-4) earn a second state championship banner. Canton’s defense limited Thomaston to just 29.8 percent shooting from the floor. Caranelo had 15 points and 14 rebounds for the No. 5 Bears (23-5) while Julia Quinn had a team-leading 23 points. Even Quinn had a tough night shooting, sinking 8-of-21 shots.
“(Falling behind) and the relentless pressure they put on us was a recipe for disaster for us and victory for them,” Thomaston coach Bob McMahon said.
The Bears had an early 7-4 lead after Quinn drained a three-point shot with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter. But Briggs scored six consecutive points on a jumper, inside basket off a nice assist from Skinner and another opener jumper to give Canton a 10-7 lead.
Trailing by three, 12-9, Colangelo’s attempted three-pointer from the corner went in and out of the basket with seven seconds left in the first quarter. Briggs grabbed the rebound, raced up court and let a shot of her own fly just past midcourt. It went through the net for a three-pointer and a 15-9 Canton lead.
“We never really recovered from that,” McMahon said. Instead of being tied 12-12 after eight minutes, the Bears were down six, 15-9. “I can’t believe it because that is a bunch of tough kids in that locker room.”
Thomaston never got closer than seven points in the second half although they threatened with some runs. Every time, the Bears would get close, Briggs would make a play in the lane or the Warriors would force a Thomaston turnover.
Late in the second quarter, Thomaston cut the lead to eight, 23-15. But Canton closed out the second quarter with a 7-2 surge with four points from Magna (two separate baskets) and a three-point play from Charron, who drove the baseline, sank the shot and was fouled.
The Canton lead swelled to 16 points in the third quarter before a 16-6 run by the Bears with eight points from Quinn to trim the Warrior led to six points, 40-34, with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Quinn’s fadeaway jumper on the baseline made the Bear faithful roar.
Thomaston couldn’t capitalize on its surge. Canton opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run with Briggs scoring six points on three baskets. The Bears, meanwhile, missed three shots from the floor and had two turnovers – steals from Charron and Skinner.
The Bears did cut the lead to seven on a three-point shot from Alexa Milius with 48 seconds left, 55-48, but Canton sank six of eight foul shots and Briggs capped it off with a block of an attempted three-pointer with 25 seconds remaining.
“So many people had roles and they played them to a T,” Medeiros said. “I thought Abby Charron did a great job in the first quarter. She set the tone (for us). Obviously, Belle Magna’s defense throughout the game was terrific. Sarah Bowman made Casey (Carangelo) work. (Sarah) just played so well. I usually (substitute) her out and she doesn’t play so many minutes. She didn’t block every shot but she altered some of (Casey’s) shots and made Casey shoot from bad angles.
Skinner said, “We talked about using Sarah Bowman as our eraser.”
Medeiros added, “Abbe Skinner had a solid game in terms of getting loose balls, playing defense and hitting an occasional shot,” he said. “Emily was Emily. She won’t let us lose. She made big plays, got some stops and was so efficient. I don’t know if she had any bad shots.”
Nearly a week ago, the Warriors beat Housatonic, 41-32 in the Class S semifinals but it was an ugly game full of turnovers, missed layups and missed foul shots.
“I think all of the kids took a step back and realized, you know, maybe we’re not as good as we think,” Medeiros said. “We really have to focus and put the work in. They knew to play Thomaston they would have to be the best version of themselves.”
McMahon praised the Warriors for their preparation. “You play all of these games over the years and some teams aren’t prepared for what you do. They were very prepared. Hats off to them.”
Added Briggs, who played in three state championship games in her career and won two, “It’s amazing. This is awesome.”
NOTES: With the win, Canton snapped Thomaston’s 14-game winning streak. … The girls basketball team was the first Canton program to earn three straight championship berths since the field hockey team from 1985-87. The last Canton program to win back-to-back state titles was the field hockey team in 1998-99. … Canton shot 47.9 percent from the floor in the win and outscored the Bears, 28-12 in the paint. The Warriors got 14 points off the bench while the Bears had just two. Canton scored nine points on fast break opportunities. … Canton is now 2-3 in title games. … Thomaston was playing in its fifth straight Class S championship game. They went 2-3 in that span. … Canton won 64-51 a year ago in the finals over the Bears. … There was a good crowd that filled up a good portion of the lower bowl. The CIAC didn’t break down the individual games and said 5,078 fans saw the first three games.
Canton 60, Thomaston 51
Thomaston (51) Julia Quinn 8-21 4-4 23, Camryn Capaldo 2-2 1-2 7, Alexa Milius 1-6 1-2 4, Kaitlin Root 0-4 0-3 0, Casey Carangelo 5-21 4-9 15, Sydney Stevenson 0-0 0-0 0, Mackenzie Doyle 0-0 0-0 0, Alexa Sanson 1-2 0-0 2, Emily Root 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Gagne 0-1 0-0 0, Megan Guay 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-57 10-17 51
Canton (60) Abbe Skinner 1-7 2-3 4, Abby Charron 5-8 5-10 15, Emily Briggs 9-19 5-6 24, Leah Eschenbrenner 0-1 1-2 1, Sarah Bowman 1-2 0-0 2, Belle Magna 5-7 0-0 10, Lauren Puglielli 0-0 0-0 0, Grace Treacy 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Eschenbrenner 2-4 0-0 4, Alexandra DelSanto 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-48 13-21 60
Thomaston (23-5) 9 9 16 17 — 51
Canton (23-4) 15 15 11 19 – 60
Three-point goals: Thomaston 7-22 (Quinn 3-8, Capaldo 2-2, Milius 1-5, Root 0-3, Carangelo 1-4), Canton 1-5 (Briggs 1-1, Leah Eschenbrenner 0-1, Skinner 0-2, Lauren Eschenbrenner 0-1)
Rebounds: Thomaston 36 (Carangelo 14, Quinn 6); Canton 35 (Briggs 12, Bowman 6, Skinner 6, Charron 5); Assists: Thomaston 8 (Milus 3, Capaldo 2, Carangelo 2), Canton 14 (Charron 6, Skinner 4, Bowman 2); Turnovers: Thomaston 16 (Carangelo 5), Canton 17 (Briggs 5); Blocks: Thomaston 0, Canton 6 (Bowman 3, Briggs 3); Steals: Thomaston 9 (Carangelo 5), Canton 6 (Briggs 3, Charron 2)