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Canton (19-1) beats East Granby to win second straight NCCC championship

Canton senior Sarah Bowman scored a career-high 14 points as the Warriors beat East Granby to clinch their second straight NCCC championship.

CANTON, February 8 – In the early moments of Friday night’s girls basketball game between visiting East Granby and host Canton, it looked like it would be an easy victory for the Warriors.

Canton raced out to a quick 10-point lead. But with five minutes left in the first half, East Granby had outscored the Warriors 13-2 to take the lead.

That got Canton’s attention. The Warriors scored the next 10 points and 14 of the next 18 points to seize control, beat East Granby, 56-31 and win their second straight North Central Connecticut Conference championship.

Canton (19-1, 16-0 NCCC) went undefeated in the league for the second straight year to win the championship. SMSA (16-3, 14-1 NCCC) has clinched second place in the league. It’s the third time in team history that the Warriors have won back-to-back league titles.

“It’s pretty cool,” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said. “Going undefeated (in the league) for the second year in a row was no easy task. We had different challenges in different games and it’s been great to see the kids really step up. We were challenged most nights.”

Canton’s Abby Charron dribbles away from traffic in Friday night’s win over East Granby.

And Canton was able to rise to the challenge – like they did Friday against East Granby (11-9, 7-9 NCCC). Bowman had six of her career-high 14 points in the first quarter as the Warriors raced out to a 12-2 lead. But East Granby wouldn’t go away and eventually took a 15-14 lead with 4:48 left in the second quarter.

Canton went on a 10-0 run capped off by a three-point shot from leading scorer Abby Charron, a Charron jumper and a wide-open Lauren Eschenbrenner scoring off a long pass from Charron after the Warriors pulled down the defensive rebound.

Gabbie Schinkel scored a layup with three seconds left in the second half to give Canton a 28-18 lead.

“Our man-to-man defense has been much better and our ability to push the ball upcourt in transition (has been very helpful),” Medeiros said. “We’re doing a much better job of getting the rebound, getting (into the) offense (and getting) to the basket. We’re getting so many more easy baskets.”

Canton, which is ranked No. 12 in the latest GameTime CT girls basketball top 10 poll, outscored the Crusaders, 22-6 in the third quarter to blow open the ballgame.

“We’ve had a lot of great third quarters save us,” Medeiros said.

The Warriors cheer on their teammates in the final seconds of Friday night’s win over East Granby.

Canton was led by Bowman’s career-high 14 points with Charron sinking 10 points. Escenbrenner scored nine points with Lauren Puglielli, Morgan Walzak and Allison Celmer scoring four points each. Bowman had eight blocked shots while Charron had 11 assists and eight rebounds.

“It feels really good,” Puglielli said of winning a championship. “We worked so hard for this and after last year’s bittersweet finish, it was real important for us to get this.”

Canton lost in the NCCC Tournament championship game to East Windsor, 43-42, with the Panthers blocking a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer. And in the first round of the Class S tournament, Trinity Catholic sank a shot at the buzzer to eliminate the Warriors.

“We’ve all found our place and we all know what we have to do to contribute for us to win,” Puglielli said. “Everyone does one thing really well and when it all comes together, we can be unstoppable.”

The NCCC tournament begins next week with the first round on Wednesday. Canton will have home court advantage as long as they are in the tournament. The Warriors will host a quarterfinal game on Friday, February 15. The semifinals will be Tuesday, Feb. 19 with the championship game on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Caitlin Strezegoewski led the Crusaders with seven points.

Some Canton youngsters from the Canton Recreation Basketball League and fans presented the Warriors with some celebratory cupcakes after the game Friday night.

NOTES: The last time that Canton won back-to-back titles was in 1998 and 1999. This is the sixth NCCC championship for the Warriors, who won in 2018, 1999 and 1998. Canton shared the league title in 2015 with Avon and in 1993 with Somers and Ellington. … Canton’s 19-1 record is the second-best regular season record in team history. The Warriors went 20-0 in 1998. … It’s the third time that Canton ran the table (16-0) in the NCCC. The Warriors were also undefeated in the league last year and in 1998.  … Canton has won their last 11 games.

Canton 56, East Granby 31
At Canton
East Granby (31) Caitlin Strezegoewski 1-5-7, Sarah Springer 1-0-2, Ashley Moore 0-0-0, Chloe Gosselin 1-0-3, Kat Santos 2-0-4, Emma Griffin 2-0-4, Rachel Griffin 1-3-5, Britney Coucino 2-2-6. Totals 10 10-14 31
Canton (56) Lauren Puglielli 2-0-4, Abby Charron 4-0-10, Morgan Walzak 1-1-4, Paige Brown 0-0-0, Allison Celmer 2-0-4, Lauren Eschenbrenner 4-0-9, Allie DelSanto 1-0-3, Sarah Bowman 7-0-14, Gabbie Schinkel 1-0-2, Claudia Boehm 0-0-0, Camille Kahning 0-0-0, Allison Bronson 0-0-0, Jenna Cunikowski 0-0-0. Totals 24 3-6 56
East Granby (11-9)                     9    9    8  5  — 31
Canton (19-1)                            14  14  22  6  — 56
Three-point goals: Gosselin (EG), Charron (Ca) 2, Walzak (Ca), Eschenbrenner (Ca), Delsanto (Ca)

NCCC girls basketball standings

Team NCCC Overall
x-Canton 16-0 19-1
SMSA 14-1 16-3
Granby 13-3 15-5
Suffield 13-3 15-5
East Windsor 10-5 13-6
Ellington 10-5 12-6
Somers 9-6 11-7
East Granby 7-8 11-8
Windsor Locs 7-9 9-10
Bolton 5-11 8-12
Coventry 5-11 6-12
Rockville 5-11 5-15
Stafford 2-14 4-14
HMTCA 2-14 4-15
Classical 1-15 3-16
x-won league championship

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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