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Warriors survive challenge from Tolland, win in OT

CANTON, Jan. 12, 2009  – The first three games of the season didn’t really challenge the Canton High boys basketball team. The Warriors ran out to big leads and cruised to victories over Plainville, Portland and defending NCCC champion Coventry.

Canton led Plainville by 22 at the half in a 18-point victory, had a whopping 32-point halftime lead in a 56-point victory over Portland and led by 15 at the midway point of a 24-point win over Coventry.

Last Friday against Tolland, the Warriors again sprinted out to a big lead. They scored the first 14 points of the game and had a 22-point lead at one point in the first half. But one thing was different. The visiting Eagles fought back.

Tolland held Canton to just one field and five points in the final 6:40 of the fourth quarter and scored at the buzzer to force overtime. And even in OT, the Warriors grabbed a nine-point lead only to see Tolland trim it to two points – twice.

But when it was over, Canton was still undefeated with a 78-74 overtime victory. Canton (4-0, 2-0 NCCC) is one of four teams still unbeaten in the league along with Avon, Windsor Locks and Stafford.

“At times our defense was awesome and we really forced them into turnovers,” Canton coach Eric Deegan said. “Later on, we got away from playing hard every play and took too many plays off.”

Defense pressure helped Canton surge out to a 14-0 lead minutes into the game. The Warriors led by nine after one quarter, led by 14 at halftime and led by nine after three quarters.

But Tolland (4-3, 2-2 NCCC) refused to go away quietly. Senior sharpshooter Joe Venora sank six 3-point shots and sparked an Eagle comeback with his game-high 26 points.

“We were 3-17 last year and I don’t know if these kids believe they can win yet,” Tolland coach Steve Tozier said. “It was a miserable loss but the good thing is that they know they can come back and win against anybody.”

Canton led by 10 after James Rosshirt drove to the basket and sank a foul shot to complete a three-point play with 6:40 left in the fourth quarter. But Canton got a little sloppy with the ball and Tolland ribbed down some key rebounds.

Canton led by five when Tolland’s Mike Pinto hit a three-point shot with 3:01 left to cut the lead to two points. Another two foul shots with 1:01 left tied the game at 63-63.

“We relaxed on defense and that killed us,” Deegan said. “Offensively, we weren’t aggressive (in the fourth quarter). But a couple of big plays saved us.”

Rosshirt was fouled with 54.7 seconds left and missed both foul shots but on the second, Chris Robitaille tipped the rebound back to Rosshirt who banked the ball off the glass with 53.8 seconds left and a 65-63 lead. Tolland sent the game in overtime when Matt Clawson ran the baseline and sank a reverse layup at the buzzer.

In OT, Robitaille scored two points in the lane for a 67-65 lead with 2:56 left and after the Warrior defense forced a turnover, Rosshirt drove the lane between two defenders for a layup and a four-point lead. With foul shots and a Tolland technical, the lead swelled to nine.

Pesky Tolland twice cut the lead to two but Andrew Crowley sank four foul shots and the Warriors ripped down two crucial defensive rebounds in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.

Robitaille led the way for Canton with a team-high 24 points on 11 field goals. He also pulled down 14 rebounds and had several blocked shots. Crowley had 22 points while Rosshirt finished with 21.

It was Canton’s third straight win over Tolland, which is leaving the NCCC this spring to join the Central Connecticut Conference. Canton also won the 2007 contest in overtime.

The 78 points were the most that Canton has ever scored against Tolland.

Girls basketball
Tolland hands girls first loss
CANTON, Jan. 12, 2008 — A difficult third quarter was the difference for Canton (7-1, 1-1 NCCC) in a 52-40 loss to Tolland last Friday night. The Warriors were outscored 14-3 in the pivotal eight minutes. Kelly Schatzlein had 20 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots for Tolland while her sister Kristin added 17 points, 7 rebounds and six assists.

Sarah Benedetti had 17 points while Megan Roux added 13.

Earlier in the week, Canton opened NCCC play with a solid 43-34 win over Coventry. Roux led the way with 17 points while Benedetti added 14. The Warriors shut down Coventry in the fourth quarter, allowing the Patriots to score just six points.



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 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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