CANTON, January 5 – For a while, it looked like the undefeated Canton High girls basketball team was about to be routed in their own gym.
Canton was hosting No. 5 Notre Dame-Fairfield – an annual game that always challenges the Warriors. The contest was tied late in the first quarter but the visiting Lancers opened up a 16-point lead with a minute left in the second quarter.
Canton responded with a 20-1 surge of their own in the third quarter to take a four-point lead.
But Notre Dame’s Laryssa Guimares scored six of her 11 points in the final 13 minutes of the game and the Lancers limited Canton to just two field goals and nine points in the fourth quarter to earn a 52-47 victory and hand Canton their first loss of the season.
It was a balanced effort from Notre Dame-Fairfield with Aizhanique Mayo leading the way with 12 points. Guimares and Cindy Brown added 11 points each while Yamani McCullough scored nine for the Lancers (6-1).
Canton (8-1) received nine points from Abby Charron and eight each from Allison Celmer and Sarah Bowman, who also had a team-high 11 rebounds. Six players – Charron, Celmer, Bowman, Lauren Puglielli, Paige Brown and Grace Treacy — scored in a 20-1 third quarter run that put Canton ahead, 38-34.
It was an eye-opening performance after Notre Dame-Fairfield went on a 16-0 run in the second quarter to snap a 12-12 tie and take a 16-point lead.
“We had to play near perfect to beat them after we got down like we did,” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said. “I thought we did a lot of things well to get back into the game and take the lead. Multiple people made stops (on defense), making plays regardless if was a defensive rebound or a deflection that led to a steal or taking a shot. It was a great test for us and we need games like this.”
Canton easily beat NCCC rival Coventry on Friday night, 60-28 for their eighth straight win of the season. Lauren Eschenbrenner led the way with 18 points including four 3-point goals while Brown added nine points.
But they didn’t see the swarming defense that Notre Dame-Fairfield came with on Saturday nor the hard rebounding or physical play that a team ranked among the top in the state often brings to the court.
“Sometimes we don’t get pushed (in some of our games) and our bad habits or deficiencies aren’t noticed,” Medeiros said. “Today in a game like this, they were seen and our eyes were opened. We were pushed out of our comfort zone. To win in March, to win a NCCC league title and to compete for a state title, you need to be pushed and get out of your comfort zone.”
Escenbrenner’s three-point shot with 1:37 left in the third quarter tied the game at 12-12 but it was the last field goal Canton would score in the first half until Celmer scored with 16 seconds remaining as Canton successfully broke the Notre Dame press and found her open under the basket to cut the Lancer lead to 28-16 at halftime.
Notre Dame was 4-of-6 on the foul line, sank a three-pointer and had baskets in the lane on their 16-0 run.
The Lancers led by 15 points, 33-18, with 6:09 left in the third quarter before Canton went on their 20-1 run to take the lead. Puglielli and Charron each had five points in the run.
With Canton leading 38-34 with 20 seconds left in the third period, Notre Dame went on an 8-0 run with six points from Guimares (all foul shots) to take a 42-38 lead with 5:58 remaining. Bowman scored in the lane to cut the lead to two points, 42-40.
“When everything was going poorly for us and Canton was playing very, very well and forcing us into decisions that were not the best (decisions), we got ourselves organized and we had kids make plays,” Notre Dame coach Eric DeMarco said.
“We shared the ball today as well as we ever have (this season),” he said. “We made the extra pass. (Canton) forced us to make a lot of extra passes because their defense was so good.”
Notre Dame pushed the lead back to six points before Bowman hit a pair of foul shots and Celmer scored on a nice feed from Bowman with 4:02 remaining to again cut the lead to two, 47-45.
Brown put a rebound back up and into the basket with 3:29 remaining to extend the Lancer lead to four points, 49-45. That was the final field goal of the game. Both teams forced turnovers and missed shots in the final minutes.
Canton won’t see Notre Dame-Fairfield again this season. The Lancers will participate in the Class L tournament. The Warriors (8-1, 6-0 NCCC) return to action on Wednesday night when they travel to Granby to take on the Bears.
NOTE: The Lancers are ranked No. 5 in the latest New Haven Register/GameTimeCT top 10 girls basketball poll. Canton also received votes in the poll and was ranked No. 20. … It was the fourth straight year that the two teams have met. Notre Dame has won three of four contests. The Warriors won in 2017 with a 52-37 win here in Canton.
Notre Dame-Fairfield 52, Canton 47
Notre Dame-Fairfield (52) Yamani McCullough 3 0-1 9, Aizhanique Mayo 3 5-5 12, Erin Harris 3-0-7, Taylor Gibbs 1-0-2, Cindy Brown 2 7-12 11, Laryssa Guimares 2 7-10 11, Mac Store-Fulmer 0-0-0, Krystalee Fernandez 0-0-0, Mia Dunn 0-0-0. Totals 14 19-28 52
Canton (47) Lauren Puglielli 2-0-5, Abby Charron 2 4-5 9, Morgan Walzak 0 2-3 2, Paige Brown 1-0-3, Allison Celmer 3 2-2 8, Grace Treacy 2-0-5, Lauren Eschenbrenner 2-0-5, Sarah Bowman 2 4-6 8, Gabbie Schinkel 0 2-2 2. Totals 14 14-18 47
ND-Fairfield (6-1) 15 13 8 16 – 52
Canton (8-1) 12 4 22 9 — 47
Three-point goals: Lauren Puglielli (Ca), Abby Charron (Ca), Paige Brown (Ca), Grace Treacy (Ca), Lauren Eschenbrenner (Ca); Yamani McCullough (ND) 3, Aizhanique Mayo (ND), Erin Harris (ND)
Canton 60, Coventry 28
Canton (60) Abby Charron 3 0 6, Allison Celmer 1 1 3, Lauren Eschenbrenner 5 4 18, Sarah Bowman 0 0 0, Morgan Walzak 1 0 3, Paige Brown 3 1 9, Grace Treacy 1 0 2, Gabbie Schinkel 2 1 5, Sophia Stamos 1 0 2, Ally DelSanto 1 0 2, Lauren Puglielli 4 0 8, Camille Kashnig 1 0 2. Totals 23 7 60
Coventry (28) Hannah LaVasseur 0 0 0, Phoebe White 0 0 0, Lydia Tata 7 2 16, Jess Hanrath 0 0 0, Hanna Toombs 1 0 3, Sophia Mansella 0 1 1, Anna Montgomery 1 1 3, Bridget Jordan 0 2 2, Ella Riely 1 0 3, Autumn Bates 0 0 0. Totals 10 6 28.
Canton (8-0) 11 12 22 15 — 60
Coventry (1-5) 7 2 7 12 — 28
Three-point goals: Eschenbrenner (Ca) 4, Walzak (Ca), Brown (Ca) 2, Toombs (Cov), Riely (Cov)