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Canton handles the pressure to beat sharp-shooting Classical

Junior Grant Lange (30) hit four 3-point shots and sank a career-high 23 points in Friday night’s win over Classical.

CANTON, January 26 – There is one thing that most people remember about the last time that the Canton High boys basketball team met Hartford Classical on the basketball court – and it has nothing to do with the tremendous game the two teams played last February in the NCCC Tournament semifinals.

Classical won by one, staving off a furious surge from Canton, which won their first league championship since 1982 last winter. But some Canton fans taunted players from Classical with chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump” and waving a Trump/Pence campaign banner.

On Friday night, the Canton High gym was loud. There were no chants about the President Trump – just lots of cheering, yelling and applause as two of the best teams in the North Central Connecticut Conference battled it out on the hardwood.

Canton erased an early seven-point deficit and took an 11-point lead in the third quarter only to see the visiting Gladiators cut the lead to one point with 4:18 remaining.

But the defending NCCC champion Warriors sank nine of 10 foul shots in the final 2:45 and senior Mitchell Cormier pulled down some huge rebounds as Canton grabbed sole possession of second place in the league with a 75-69 victory Friday night.

Canton (11-1, 9-1 NCCC) moved to within a half-game of NCCC leader Rockville (10-3, 9-0 NCCC), who lost to Valley Regional-Deep River in a non-league contest Friday night. Classical, which had their nine-game winning streak snapped, slipped to 9-2 overall and 8-2 in the league.

“That was the No. 1 team in the league,” Classical coach Reggie Tucker said. “We came into their house and gave it everything we had. Now, we know we have some things to work on. We’ll get better.”

Classical senior Tyreice Woods was outstanding with a team-high 20 points, draining a game-high six 3-point shots from all over the floor. Some shots were from NBA three-point range. Teammate Danson King had 14 points with three 3-point shots of his own. The Gladiators sank 12 field goals in the game and 10 were from three-point range.

“The offense is there,” Tucker said. “I am more concerned about our defense.”

Canton senior guard Luke Brown handled the pressure Friday with 19 points to help the Warriors win their 11th game of the season with a victory over Classical.

Canton senior guard Luke Brown had 19 points including three 3-point shots while guard Grant Lange came off the bench to score a career-high 23 points, including four 3-point shots. The Warriors drained eight 3-point shots in the game. Matt Rose and Ryan Enns each had nine points.

The Warriors led by 11 early in the third quarter when Canton came out with a 10-2 run to open the second half. Brown and Enns each had four points while Cormer had a pair of dandy assists in the lane.

However, Classical (9-2, 8-2 NCCC) wouldn’t go away. They cut the lead to one with three free throws, 58-57, with 4:18 left in the game.

But Cormier extended the lead by ripping down a rebound and putting it back up in the lane with 3:50 remaining to extend the lead to three, 60-57. On Classical’s next two offensive possessions, they missed and each time Cormier came down with the rebound.

With 2:45 left, Cormier pulled down an offensive rebound and was fouled. His sank both shots to extend the lead to five, 62-57. With 2:14 remaining, Enns drove to the basket to score and extend the lead to seven, 64-57. The Warriors were proficient on the foul line, sinking nine of 10 shots in the final 2:45 and 23 of 27 in the contest. Classical never got any closer than five points the rest of the way.

“This was a huge win for us, especially after they beat us here in the tournament (last February),” Enns said. “It means a lot.”

Added Brown, “It is a great win for us but we’re not done yet. We have some more challenges to go.”

Canton’s Ryan Enns tries to slow down Classical’s Justin Olles (24) in Friday night’s NCCC contest in Canton.

Classical’s quickness gave the Warriors plenty of trouble in the first quarter, causing plenty of turnovers. And the Gladiators were getting many of the rebounds.

“They have so many athletes, so many guys and they’re so athletic,” Canton coach Craig Archambault said. “I thought everyone stepped up. We were mixing our defenses.”

“We talked about valuing the ball, value the ball,” he said. “You’ll get a great shot if you value the ball and move it around. Once we were able to break their pressure (defense), it opened things up for us.”

“We haven’t seen (defensive) pressure like that this year,” Archambault said. “Once we settled into their speed and settled into the game, we were able to get some rebounds.”

Classical led by seven with 5:02 left in the second quarter after Danson King drained a three-point shot. The Gladiators led by five when Canton went on a 10-2 run to close out the first half.

Jack Mansur hit a pair of free throws and Tim Keating drove to the basket with 1:41 remaining to cut the Classical lead to one, 27-26. With 42 seconds left, Lange drained a three-pointer. The Gladiators tied it on a basket with 25 seconds left but Lange sank another three-pointer from the top of the key with 0.6 of a second left to give Canton a 32-29 halftime advantage.

Solid rebounding from the Warriors allowed Canton to score 10 of the first 12 points of the third quarter.

Canton returns to the floor on Tuesday when they take on Windsor Locks.

With the first visit by Classical since the incident last February, there was a larger than usual presence of Canton staff on hand. Two teachers were actually stationed among the Canton students in the crowd. There were no problems during the game.

School principal Drew DiPippo and assistant principal Eric Verner were at the game, which is the norm. School superintendent Kevin Case and assistant superintendent Jordan Grossman were also in attendance – which isn’t unusual.

“With an exciting and close game, we wanted to provide great support and make sure we had plenty of positive energy from the students and the fans,” DiPippo said. “Our staff did a nice job to help create that positive atmosphere for the players and our guests.”

Canton 75, Hartford Classical 69
At Canton
Classical (69) Tyreice Woods 6 2-6 20, Justice Carter 1 0-0 3, Danson King 3 5-8 14, Luis Molina 0 0-0 0 Tyreese Jones 1 2-3 4, Jarred Griffin 0 0-0 0, Robert Simmons 5 2-3 12, Danny Campbell 4 3-4 11, Justin Olles 2 1-2 5. Totals 12 15-26, 69
Canton (75) Luke Brown 5 6-7 19, Jack Mansur 1 4-4 7, Ryan Enns 3 3-5 9, Grant Lange 7 5-6 23, Tim Keating 1 0-0 2, Matt Rose 3 3-3 9, Mitchell Cormier 2 2-2 6, Jack Rose 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 23-27 75
Hartford Classical (9-2)           15  14  16  24 – 69
Canton (11-1)                              15  17  18  25 – 75
Three-point goals: Woods (HC) 6, King (HC) 3, Carter (HC), Brown (Can) 3, Mansur (Can), Lange (Can) 4

NCCC boys basketball NCCC Overall
Rockville 9-0 10-3
Canton 9-1 11-1
Granby 7-1 8-2
Hartford Classical 8-2 9-2
SMSA 7-2 8-4
Friday’s results
Canton 75, Hartford Classical 69
Granby 60, East Windsor 48
Valley Regional 76, Rockville 45
Tuesday’s games
Canton at Windsor Locks
Classical at Granby
Somers at SMSA
Rockville at East Granby

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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