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Canton gives up big lead but battles back to top Coventry in OT

Canton's Alex Daley (5) tries to slow down Coventry's Chris Buhr.

Canton’s Alex Daley (5) tries to slow down Coventry’s Chris Buhr.

CANTON, Feb. 7 – The Canton High boys basketball team nearly let one slip away from them on Friday night. The Warriors led by 16 points with 3:16 left in the third quarter but they didn’t put away visiting Coventry High.

The Patriots didn’t give up a field goal in a stretch of 7:50 and rallied to take a five-point lead with 2:16 remaining the game. But Canton re-ignited its defense and forced turnovers on three consecutive Coventry possessions in overtime to earn a 63-59 victory and a spot in the Class S tournament.

The victory comes just three days after a hard-fought 53-51 double overtime loss to Suffield.

“We had some lapses on defense and lost the urgency to defend,” Canton coach Craig Archambault said of the Patriot comeback. “But that is why I love this team. They never quit. They made some stops, got some steals and never gave up.”

Canton (8-6, 7-5 NCCC) led by 16 points with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter after Cameron Lange hit a fadeaway jumper on the baseline. In the next 7:58, Cam Daley sank Canton’s only field goal, slicing through the Patriot defense with 6:04 left in regulation.

In the meantime, Coventry picked up the intensity, began pulling down rebounds and went on a 26-5 run with nine points from Chris Grope (14 points). “We haven’t been outrebounded in the last seven games that is just due to their effort,” Coventry coach Michael Caccomo said. “They have a lot of grit and heart.”

Coventry’s Devan Valdes broke a tie ballgame, grabbing his own rebound and scoring with 2:47 left. After a Canton turnover, Grope drove the lane, scored and was fouled. He sank a foul shot for a five-point lead with 2:16 remaining, 51-46.

Lange hit a foul shot to cut the lead to four. With 58 seconds to go, Rieley Hoffman was fouled and he sank two free throws to cut the Coventry lead to two, 51-49.

Coventry never got a chance to extend its lead. They coughed up the ball thanks to a double team by Hoffman and Zukowski. On its next possession, a Coventry player turned the ball due to some defensive pressure from Zukowski.

Canton students celebrate with the Warriors after an OT win over Coventry.

Canton students celebrate with the Warriors after an OT win over Coventry.

With 34 seconds remaining, Zukowski drove to the basket and was tripped. But he arcing shot went through the net to the game at 51-51.

In overtime, Coventry took a 55-53 lead with 2:11 left when Sam Green got past Cam Daley and drove to the basket. Daley missed a shot at the other end and the Patriots grabbed the rebound.

But Zukowski stole the ball and fed the ball to Hoffman, who scored on a layup to tie the game at 55 all with 1:31 remaining. As Coventry tried to inbound the ball, it was stolen by Hoffman, who spun and laid in a one-handed basket with 1:19 to go. Canton led 57-55.

On the next possession, Coventry tried to lob the ball into the paint. Zukowski intercepted the ball. A few seconds later, he was on the line and sank two free throws, extending Canton’s lead to four points, 59-55. Zukowski sank six of nine free throws in the game, including six of eight attempts in OT.

“That’s a learning experience for us,” Archambault said. “We have to continue to execute.”

Canton received a balanced effort. Cam Daley led the Warriors with 10 points while Hoffman scored nine. Ben Sullivan (two 3-point goals), Zukowski and Lange each had eight points.

For Coventry, Chris Buhr had a game-high 18 points while Grope scored 14. The Patriots sank 13-of-17 fouls shots but it wasn’t enough. The loss eliminates the Patriots (2-13, 2-8 NCCC) from state tournament consideration.

NOTES: It was Canton’s second win of the season over the Patriots. The Warriors had 20 points in the fourth quarter of a game on January 7 to earn a 57-51 victory. … Canton has won three of its last four games. … This game was the first of back-to-back games for the Warriors. About 18 hours after this game, the Warriors will host Classical Magnet School out of Hartford at 3:30 p.m. The visiting Gladiators (4-7) are in Class L and are coached by Canton High graduate Reggie Tucker, who played under former CHS coach Bill Mudano. … Against Suffield earlier this week, Canton led by two after three quarters, 32-30. Nolan McCoy stole the ball with 17 seconds left in the second OT and fed teammate Robert Howard for the game-winning layup in a 53-51 victory.

Canton 63, Coventry 59, OT
At Canton
Coventry (59) Ben Norstrom 0-0-0, Chris Buhr 6 5-6 18, Clark Loriccio 1-0-2, Alex Bootin 0-0-0, Devan Valdes 2 4-7 8, Chris Grope 5 3-3 14, Reed Hoffman 0-0-0, Jake Jeroszko 0-0-0, Sam Green 3 1-1 7. Totals 17 13-17 59
Canton (63) Rieley Hoffman 3 2-4 9, Alex Daley 3 0-2 7, Ben Sullivan 3-0-8, Andrew Zukowski 1 6-9 8, Jake Wood 2 2-4 6, Cam Daley 5 0-1 10, Cam Lange 2 4-6 8, Shane Toland 3-0-6. Totals 22 14-26 63
Coventry (2-13)                     5    8  10  18    8 – 59
Canton (8-6)                        16  13  12  10  12 – 63
Three-point goals: Hoffman (Can), A. Daley (Can), Sullivan (Can) 2, Buhr (Cov), Grope (Cov)

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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