AVON, Feb. 6 – Technically, this wasn’t a game to determine the NCCC champion. Both teams still have five games left in the regular season. But, boy, did this one have a championship feel Friday night.
The Avon and Canton High boys basketball teams stood toe-to-toe taking their best shots. Avon led by seven points in the opening minutes and extended it to seven late in the second quarter.
Canton scored the first 12 points of the third quarter and led by as many as 11 points. But the host Falcons outscored Canton, 13-3 in the final seven minutes of regulation and pulled away in overtime to earn a thrilling 80-71 victory before a packed house at Avon High that roared with every basket.
The win puts Avon (11-4, 8-0 NCCC) in command of the race for the league championship while Canton (12-1, 7-1 NCCC) dropped its first game of the season. Stafford is 7-1 in the league but they’ve already lost to Avon and face Canton next Friday night. Windsor Locks is 9-2 in the league with losses to Canton and Bolton.
Avon’s Joe Ives scored a career-high 30 points including eight in overtime. Canton nearly won the game at the buzzer but James Rosshirt couldn’t convert on a layup.
“Joe played his best game of the season,” Avon coach Tim Curtis said. “He has struggled a bit with his shooting this year. But he really stepped up his game. He delivered when we really needed him to.”
Andrew Crowley had 26 points and five 3-point goals to lead the Warriors while Chris Robitaille had 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks.
Canton led by 10 points with 7:09 left in the fourth quarter, 61-51, after Mike Setzler finished off a basket in the lane off a nice pass from Crowley. The Warriors had several other good scoring opportunities with two or three shots going in and popping out of the cylinder.
“What really hurt us is we didn’t extend that lead when we had a chance to,” Deegan said.
After missing five of its first six shots of the fourth quarter, the Falcons caught fire. Zak Blawie drained a pair of 3-points shots and Jack O’Brien nailed a three-point shot with 3:20 left in regulation to give Avon a 62-61 lead.
Crowley drove to the basket to give Canton a one-point lead but within seconds, Ives drove past Robitaille to put Avon ahead, 64-63. Rosshirt sank a foul shot with 20 seconds left to tie the game.
A shot down low by Blawie to win the game was blocked by Robitaille with three seconds to go and Robitaille fired the rebound up court to a streaking Rosshirt. But he was tightly covered and his layup at the buzzer just rolled off the rim.
In overtime, Rosshirt’s drive to the basket gave Canton a 68-67 lead with 2:11 remaining. Ives scored on a layup with 2:01 left to put Avon ahead, 69-68. At the other end, Crowley’s shot went in and out. Canton corralled the rebound but Robitaille’s shot in the lane rolled off the rim.
With 1:25 left, Ives grabbed his rebound twice and scored after grabbing the second carom for 71-68 lead. Setzler’s shot went in and out. Robitaille grabbed the rebound and was fouled but he missed both foul shots with 1:09 left. Overall, Canton missed 11 of 21 foul shots.
“We changed our defenses a bit and that gave them a different look that they had trouble with,” Curtis said. “They’re a great team but we’re just a little bit better tonight.” Austin Kick had 16 points while Blawie had 13, including three crucial 3-point shots.
For Canton, Rosshirt had 10 points while Setzler added five. Five different players scored baskets as Canton outscored Avon 12-0 to open the third quarter and take an 11-point lead, 51-40.
“I told them that they played a great game,” Deegan said. “They knew the game was there for the taking. I love these guys because of how hard they played.”
Avon beat Canton for the fourth straight time and can win the league title if they win their remaining five NCCC contests.
“The guys were down. But I told them don’t let this ruin a great season,” Deegan said. “It’s not the last game of the year. We’re a good team and we had our chances. But that is the way the ball bounces sometimes.”
The win snapped a 12-game winning streak for Canton. It’s the second time that Canton has opened the season with 12 straight wins. They did it in 1963 when they won their first Northwest Conference championship.
Avon 80, Canton 71, OT
Canton (71): Andrew Crowley 9-3-26, Albert Gray 1-0-2, James Rosshirt 4-2-10, Nick Quattro 1-0-3, Chris Robitaille 8-5-23, Connor Smyth 1-0-2, Mike Setzler 2-0-5. Totals 26-10-71
Avon (80): Austin Kick 6-4-16, Zak Blawie 4-2-13, Lambert Givens 1-0-2, Joe Ives 12-5-30, Scott Mancini 0-2-2, Andrew McGee 2-0-4, Will Brisco 0-0-0, Jack O’Brien 3-0-8, Eric Stevens 0-0-0, Tyler D’Onofrio 2-1-5. Totals 31-14-80
Halftime: Avon 40-39; Regulation 64-64
Three-point shots: Blawie (A) 3, Ives (A), O’Brien (A) 2, Crowley (C) 5, Quattro (C), Robitaille (C) 2, Setzler (C)
Records: Canton 12-1, 7-1 NCCC; Avon 11-4, 8-0 NCCC
Tolland 38, Suffield 36