HARTFORD, March 8 – The Canton High girls basketball team is going back to the Mohegan Sun Arena and the Class S championship game for the fourth time in the last five years.
The Warriors, ranked No. 1 in Class S, overwhelmed a young, upset-minded Northwest Catholic team on Friday night with a 47-32 victory at the Babe Allen Field House at Bulkeley High School to earn a spot in next weekend’s state championship game against No. 7 Trinity Catholic of Stamford.
Canton (26-1) gave up just one field goal in the second quarter as they turned a three-point lead into a 13-point halftime advantage. The Warriors extended the lead to as much as 20 points in the second half.
All-State guard Abby Charron led Canton with 13 points and eight assists while Allison Celmer had 12 points and five rebounds. She had all eight points for Canton in the second quarter.
Six-foot-3 senior Sarah Bowman was a force inside with a team-high nine rebounds, five blocks and six points. Bowman blocked Northwest Catholic’s first shot of the game.
No. 28 Northwest Catholic (11-13), which was 0-20 a year ago, won three straight tournament games to get to this semifinal contest, including a 49-44 overtime win over East Hampton earlier this week in the quarterfinals. But the Lions don’t have a senior on the roster and had several freshmen play significant minutes.
Junior Erin Carucci led the Lions with 17 points, including four 3-point shots while teammate Caroline Rutenberg added seven points. But no one else scored more than two points.
“We just never got a run going,” Northwest Catholic coach Al Phillips said. “It’s hard to play from behind against a good defensive team. Next year, as we grow it will get better.”
Earlier this week in a 37-25 victory over Old Lyme in the quarterfinals, Canton played poorly despite the win. They didn’t shoot the ball well with a season-low 37 points nor did they rebound with any consistency.
It was much different on Friday night. “We did much better job of spacing the floor, finding the open cutter, Allison calmer came up huge she made some nice shots,” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said. “I thought defensively we did a great job stopping their two main players (Carucci, Rutenberg).”
“We made a pointed emphasis on rebounding (in practice this week),” he said. “We challenged them to rebound in all five positions. I thought Sarah Bowman did a great job. It was great to get her back in the mix. She was a killer on the boards but the other kids – Celmer, (Lauren) Eschenbrenner, (Grace) Treacy were rebounding. That makes us better when we rebound because we can turn and run it up the court.”
Treacy had six rebounds while Celmer pulled down five rebounds.
“We tried to push the ball up the floor and (negate) their speed,” Celmer said. “We tried to get the best pass and not just the first shot. Look for the best possible shot. I took a lot of jump shots today but that was due to awesome passes from my teammates.”
Canton raced out to an early 6-0 lead on a layup from Eschenbrenner, a basket from Bowman after a nice feed from Charron and Charron driving to the basket for two points.
Thanks to a pair of three-point shots from Carucci, Northwest Catholic tied the game at 8-8. Treacy drained a three-point shot with 41 seconds left in the quarter for a 13-8 lead for the Warriors but one of the Lions’ freshmen, Siobhan Rushin grabbed a rebound in the lane and scored with 20 seconds left to cut the Canton lead to three, 13-10.
In the second quarter, Northwest Catholic freshman Grace Morganthaler scored with 6:34 remaining in the half to cut the Canton lead to three, 15-12. It was the last Lion field goal of the half.
Canton scored the final 10 points of the quarter to take a 25-12 lead at the half. Celmer had six of the 10 points while Bowman scored on a pass feed from Charron and Tracey grabbed a rebound and put it back into the basket.
The Lions cut the lead to 13 points midway through the third quarter but Bowman scored in the lane. Charron drove through traffic in the lane for two points before draining a three-point shot with 1:50 left in the quarter to extend the lead to 20 points, 36-16.
The Warriors were thrilled with the win and to secure their spot in the championship game.
“It feels amazing, especially coming after a loss (that ended our year) last season,” said Charron, who was a freshman starter on Canton’s 2017 state championship team. The Warriors were the No. 2 seed in last year’s state tournament but lost, 44-43, on a buzzer-beating shot from Trinity Catholic in the first game of the tournament.
“It was something that just really hurt our entire team and our community,” she said. “It wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Celmer added, “It’s the most amazing feeling ever. I am so excited to be going to Mohegan.”
NOTABLE: Canton won their 26th game – a school record for most wins in a single season. … Canton has won 18 of their last 20 CIAC Class S tournament games dating back to 2015. … It was the third Class S tournament game between the two schools and the first tournament win for the Warriors. NW Catholic beat Canton in 1996 and had a 65-34 win in the 1991 Class S semifinals. … No. 7 Trinity Catholic rolled into the championship after beating No. 3 St. Paul, 56-45.
Canton 47, Northwest Catholic 32
Northwest Catholic (32) Erin Carucci 6-1-17, Grace Morganthaler 1-0-2, Lily Borowiec 0-0-0, Morgan Murphy 1-0-2, Nora Staunton 1-0-2, Siobhan Rushin 1-0-2, Brianna Lebrun 0-0-0, Ava Louise Griffin 0-0-0, Caroline Rutenberg 3-1-7. Totals 13 2 32
Canton (47) Lauren Puglielli 1-0-2, Abby Charron 6-0-13, Morgan Walzak 0-0-0, Paige Brown 0-1-1, Allison Celmer 6-0-12, Grace Treacy 2-0-5, Lauren Eschenbrenner 3-0-6, Allie DelSanto 0-0-0, Sarah Bowman 3-0-6, Gabbie Schinkel 1-0-2, Allison Bronson 0-0-0. Totals 22 1 47
NW Catholic (11-13) 10 2 8 12 — 32
Canton (26-1) 13 12 13 11 – 47
Three-point goals: Carucci (NW) 4, Charron (Ca), Treacy (Ca)