UNCASVILLE, Conn., March 19 – Few people outside of Canton were giving the Canton High girls basketball team much of a chance against Thomaston in Saturday’s Class S championship game at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
A year ago, the Bears beat Canton by two points to win their second straight championship. Thomaston returned all five starters and came into the game with a 26-1 record and a 21-game winning streak.
For the Warriors, this season has been about getting another opportunity to beat the Bears. And they made the most of it.
Senior guard Maggie Treacy scored a game-high 25 points, junior forward Emily Briggs had 18 points and nine rebounds while junior Abbe Skinner had a career-high 13 points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds to help Canton win their first-ever state championship with a 64-51 win over Thomaston.
Not only is this the first girls basketball team at Canton to capture a state title, it is just the third basketball team in school history to bring home a state championship. The Canton boys captured state titles in 1978 and 1928.
Canton (22-6) won this with their defense. The Warriors limited Thomaston to just 32 percent shooting from the floor. An outstanding three-point shooting team, the Bears were 4-of-15 from three-point range. Canton never let the Bears build a lead larger than four points – way back in the first quarter.
“They got into our face and made us feel uncomfortable,” Thomaston coach Bob McMahon said of Canton’s efforts. “That’s the best defense we faced all year and they came to play. Hats off to a championship effort. They really deserved it.”
Canton coach Brian Medeiros, now in his third year, said, “We knew we had to play them man-to-man (defensively). We knew if we gave them too much of a cushion (with a zone defense), we were going to struggle (containing Thomaston). We knew we had to pressure the ball.”
The Warriors forced 15 turnovers and had eight steals, led by Emma Charron with three. Canton freshman Sarah Bowman had two blocks and her hand a few other shots as well.
“We had to be overly aggressive guarding them,” Briggs said. “Everyone stepped up for us defensively. (Man-to-man defense) really worked for us because we have really quick players who can guard and be a pain in the neck for the other team.”
The Bears were hampered with foul trouble throughout the game. Three of Thomaston’s five starters fouled out of the game (Gabrielle Hurlbert, Morgan Sanson, Casey Carangelo). Carangelo, Thomaston’s leading scorer at 16.4 points a game, finished with 10 while Sanson, who averages 11.8, finished with nine.
Thomaston (26-2) led by one, 17-16, after Sanson scored on a layup with 2:45 remaining in the second quarter but Canton took the lead when Treacy drove to the basket for two points and Briggs scored by putting a miss from Skinner back into the basket for a 20-17 lead.
Thomaston cut the lead to one on a jump shot from Charlotte Eberhardt but the Warriors took a 22-19 halftime lead on a jumper from Skinner with 40 seconds left.
Canton took command in the third quarter, using a 13-5 run to build an 11-point lead.
Treacy hit a jumper, Charron scored on a three-point play and Skinner drained a three-point shot. Treacy drove through the lane and scored on an underhanded shot. She was fouled on the play and sank a free throw. Skinner completed the rally by grabbing a miss from Briggs and scoring for a 35-24 lead.
Canton extended its lead as high as 13 points, 46-33, on a Briggs drive to the basket with 6:44 remaining. But Thomaston showed their championship mettle. The Bears have won four state titles (two in basketball, field hockey and softball) in the past two years.
Led by Julia Quinn’s seven points, the Bears cut the lead to five points, 49-45, when Carangelo scored inside with 3:13 remaining. The two teams made a few free throws and Canton had a six-point lead, 51-45 with 2:28 remaining with Thomaston trying to bring the ball up court.
Canton’s Belle Magna made a great defensive play, coming up from behind to get a steal with 2:22 remaining and Carangelo fouled out of the game on the play. Briggs hit two free throws to extend Canton’s lead to eight, 53-45.
On Thomaston’s next possession, Treacy stole the ball from Quinn, drove the length of the court and scored on a layup with 2:05 remaining to extend the lead to a comfortable 10 points, 55-45.
Canton was exceptional from the foul line. Treacy sank 12 of 15 free throws while Briggs sank 12 of 16 free throws. The Warriors, who consistently drove into the lane, sank 28 of 38 free throws. Thomaston took just 18 free throws and made 11.
“There were a lot of naysayers that said we didn’t have a chance,” Medeiros said. “We used that as the extra fire we needed. We knew we would play with them.”
The team celebrated at midcourt as Queen’s championship anthem “We are the Champions” echoed throughout the arena as the fans cheered.
“Maggie and Emily have been the heart of this team all year. They’ve carried us,” Mederios said. “It couldn’t happen to two better kids because they work well together and they feed off each other. They are the perfect 1-2 punch.”
“To be able to achieve this is so absolutely amazing,” Skinner said. “We’re so happy.”
“It is fantastic,” Treacy said. “It’s an awesome feeling.”
Canton 64, Thomaston 51
At Uncasville, Conn.
Canton (64) Abbe Skinner 6-10 0-2 13, Emma Charron 1-5 1-1 3, Carly Atkinson 0-3 1-1 1, Emily Briggs 3-8 12-16 18, Maggie Treacy 6-11 12-15 25, Belle Magna 1-1 2-2 4, Leah Eschenbrenner 0-1 0-0 0, Sarah Bowman 0-1 0-0 0, Courtney LeFave 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-40 28-38 64
Thomaston (51) Nicole Schaefer 1-5 0-0 3, Gabrielle Hurlbert 3-6 4-4 10, Morgan Sanson 3-11 3-8 9, Charlotte Eberhardt 1-2 0-0 2, Casey Carangelo 4-10 2-3 10, Julia Quinn 6-19 2-2 17, Danielle Genest 0-0-0, Alex Sanson 0-0-0, Camryn Capaldo 0-1 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Root 0-0-0, Samantha Brostek 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 18-55 11-18 51
Canton (22-6) 8 14 20 22 – 64
Thomaston (26-2) 8 11 14 18 — 51
Three-point goals: Canton 2-10 (Skinner 1-3, Charron 0-3, Treacy 1-4, Eschenbrenner 0-1); Thomaston 4-15 (Schaefer 1-4, Carangelo 0-1, Quinn 3-9, Milius 0-1)
Rebounds: Canton 31 (Skinner 10, Briggs 9); Thomaston 37 (Carangelo 13, Sanson 6, Eberhardt 6); Assists: Canton 8 (Briggs 3), Thomaston 4 (Hurlbert, Sanson, Eberhardt, Quinn); Steals: Canton 8 (Charron 3, Treacy 2); Thomaston 5 (Sanson, Quinn 2); Turnovers: Canton 14 (Briggs 5, Treacy 4), Thomaston 15 (Quinn 5, Brostek 3)