AVON, January 12 – It was eerily similar to what happened a year ago.
Last season, the Avon High girls basketball came to Canton and the Warriors led by 11 points in the second quarter. Canton never gave up the lead but Avon never really went away. The Falcons eventually prevailed in triple overtime.
On Saturday night, the two rivals renewed their long-standing rivalry with Canton racing out to an early nine-point lead. And the Warriors were ahead by eight points with 6:26 remaining in the game.
But the Falcons used an 11-1 run to take a two-point lead with 3:03 left in the contest.
Canton coach Brian Medeiros challenged his team during a fourth quarter timeout.
“I told the girls this is almost a carbon copy of what happened last year,” he said. “(We’re) up big and then they fight and fight and now they’re making plays down the stretch.
“I said which team are we going to be this year? Are we last year’s team that falls short or will be a better team that does things?” he asked the Warriors.
Canton didn’t allow another field goal in the final three minutes of the game, pulled down some key rebounds and outscored Avon, 10-0 in the final 2:17 to earn a 51-43 decision.
“In that final stretch, we defended the perimeter well,” he said. “They blocked out together. More than one person rebounded. Sometimes, we tend to be bystanders (on the floor). In crunch time, we couldn’t afford to be bystanders.”
It’s been a busy week for Canton (11-1, 8-0 NCCC). A week ago, the Warriors dropped a hard-fought game to Notre Dame-Fairfield, ranked No. 5 in the top 10 state poll. Canton prevailed in two NCCC games this week with a close victory over Granby on Wednesday, 48-44 and a 46-23 rout over Coventry on Friday night.
“We have been challenged,” Medeiros said. “You can see it in their body language. You can see it in their faces. There is some fatigue. But I think it’s a good sign that we were able to pull this one out.”
Canton’s Abby Charron drove the basket for a layup with 6:26 remaining in the game to give Canton a 40-32 lead. But Avon went on an 11-1 surge to take their first lead of the game.
Sophomore guard Ellie Powers drained a three-point shot with 6:00 left to cut the lead to five, 40-35. A minute later, senior Yaz Eldah scored in the paint after taking a nice pass from Powers to cut the lead to three, 40-37.
With 4:19 remaining, Avon junior Abby St. Onge ripped down the rebound of a miss of a Power’s shot and scored to cut the lead to one. With 3:35 remaining, St. Onge hit a jumper to put Avon ahead for the first time, 41-40.
“We preach playing 32 minutes, playing tough and playing physical,” Avon head coach Jamal Lee said. “We don’t stop until the game is over.”
Canton’s Paige Brown sank one of two foul shots to tie the game at 41-41 with 3:16 to go but St. Onge took a pass from Powers and curled her way to the basket, scoring in the lane with 3:03 remaining for a 43-41 lead.
“Give Avon credit,” Medeiros said. “They dug down. They made plays. Their hustle got them back in the game.”
Canton responded. Gabby Schinkel scored in the lane off a nice pass from Charron with 2:17 remaining to tie the game at 43-43. With 1:56 remaining, Charron stole the ball and drove in for a layup and a 45-43 advantage.
On Avon’s next two trips down the floor, they missed their shots and Schinkel pulled down the rebound for Canton. The Warriors sank five of eight fouls shots in the last minute to seal the win.
St. Onge led the way with a game-high 20 points while Eldan added eight for the Falcons. For Canton, Brown scored 13 while Charron had 12 points.
It was also the third game of the week for Avon (4-4). The Falcons fell to Simsbury on Monday night, 32-30 on a last-second layup from Mary McElroy. On Thursday night, Avon got a career-high 27 points from St. Onge in a 47-31 victory over Bulkeley-Hartford.
“All the girls are working hard,” Lee said. “We’re trying to improve every single day, every single second. We’re playing as hard as possible. If we continue to improve every single minute, we’ll have a chance (to win).”
“Anytime you play Avon, there is a lot of people here,” Medeiros said. “There was a good buzz in the gym which is awesome. I wish we had more games like that.”
Canton returns to action on Monday when they travel to Hartford for a key NCCC matchup with SMSA (9-1, 7-0 NCCC) at 5:30 p.m. Avon returns to the hardwood when they travel to Hartford Public on Monday.