CANTON, March 10 – A year ago, the Canton High boys basketball saw their chances to advance in the Class S tournament wither in a quarterfinal loss to a quick and athletic Waterbury Career squad.
This year’s team was determined not to let an opportunity to advance to the state semifinals slip away from them. The No. 2 Warriors outscored No. 7 North Branford by 19 points in the second quarter as they blew away the Thunderbirds, 76-37 to advance in the CIAC’s Division V tournament Saturday night.
The victory puts Canton (20-4) into the semifinals for the first time since 2007 and just the second time in the last 38 years. The Warriors will face No. 3 Cromwell (21-4) at a neutral site on Tuesday, March 13 for the opportunity to advance to the Division V championship game at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Canton hasn’t played for a state title since 1981.
The 39-point margin of victory was the largest for Canton in CIAC tournament history, eclipsing the 38-point win over Wheeler Regional in the 2007 Class S quarterfinals.
“The kids were hungry to seize the opportunity they had,” Canton coach Craig Archambault said. “The kids are stepping up. At this time of year, you really need to play your best.”
Ryan Enns and Mitchell Cormier each had a career-high in points. Enns, a 6-0 forward, had a game-high 27 points to lead the Warriors while Cormier, a 6-foot-5 senior, added 14 points – all in the first half.
“They struggled with our size inside,” Archambault said. “They focused on (guard) Luke Brown and it opened it up inside for us.”
Canton led 14-7 after one quarter and extended it to 35-9 after two quarters.
North Branford’s 6-foot-2 senior Brett LeQuire had a game-high 39 points and eight rebounds earlier this week in a 70-56 Division 5 tournament win over Shepaug. The Warriors held the top scorer in North Branford history with over 1,800 points to just seven points.
“All of our focus was on him, keeping him off the boards and making it tough for him,” Archambault said. “To hold him to seven points was the result of great team defense.”
“Our kids played awesome,” he said. “From the opening tip, they played out of their minds.”
Brown scored 12 points for the Warriors while Tim Keating and Jack Rose had seven points each. Guard Chris Tenczar, who has been injured for most of the second half of the season, got on the floor and added a basket.
Canton will play Cromwell in the Division V semifinals at a neutral location on Tuesday, March 13. The last time the two teams met in the state tournament was in the 2007 Class S semifinals when Cromwell outlasted Canton with a 73-66 victory in overtime thanks to 11 three-point shots including two in OT.
NOTES: This will be Canton’s seventh CIAC semifinal appearance. … Cormier’s previous career high was 11 points earlier this week against Somers. Enns’ previous career was 24 point. Twice, he scored 24 points a year ago against East Windsor and against St. Bernard in the state tournament. … Canton’s last win over Cromwell came in December in the second week of the season, 53-39.
Canton 76, North Branford 37
North Branford (15-8) Brett LeQuire 2 3 7, Jake Haeckel 5 1 14, Sydney Franklin 0 1 1, Charles Walcott 1 0 2, Paul Zumbo 1 0 2, Sean Esposito 3 0 9, Connor Pollick 1 0 2. Totals 13 5 37
Canton (20-4) Chris Tenczar 1 0 2, Luke Brown 2 7 12, Jack Mansur 1 1 3, Ryan Enns 10 7 27, Tim Keating 0 7 7, Matthew Rose 2 0 4, Mitchell Cormier 7 0 14, Jack Rose 3 1 7. Totals 26 23 76
North Branford (15-8) 7 2 16 12 — 37
Canton (20-4) 14 21 17 24 — 76
Three-point goals: Haeckel (NB) 3, Esposito (NB) 3, Brown (Ca)