CANTON, February 10, 2021 – Canton High seniors Paige Brown and Allison Bronson have seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the high school experience for them, their classmates and every high school student in the United States over the past 11 months.
Graduation last June was a drive to the Shoppes at the Farmington Valley and diplomas handed out in front of a big drive-in screen. School has been a mix of classes at home on their laptops, half-full classrooms at Canton High and those days when there is a full class for traditional teaching.
They saw their friends that play spring sports at Canton lose it all due to the pandemic – not even a single practice together.
“All of us are really happy to be here,” Bronson said. “We feel really lucky (to be here). When we went out on the court today, we were all nervous – it’s our senior year. But I kept going back to I didn’t think I would here in the first place. Win or lose, we’re here and that is amazing.”
The players have to play with masks, a select few family members can watch the games in person and they are supposed to keep their distance on the bench.
But they are playing. The Warriors opened a pandemic-shortened season with a 44-30 victory over Windsor Locks on Wednesday night. Sophomore Sophia Mates and junior Jenna Cuniowski led the way with 12 points each.
The Warriors led by five points, 14-9 with 5:18 in the second quarter before closing out the first half with a 14-0 run to take a 21-point lead at halftime.
Windsor Locks cut the lead to 10 points in the third quarter, 28-18 only to see the Warriors close out the third quarter with a 9-0 surge to re-establish command of the contest.
“It was fun to be out here today,” Canton coach Brian Medeiros said as he started his eighth season behind the bench. “There were certain things that exceeded my expectations and there were other things I was kinda hoping for a little bit better performance.
“But overall, it was great to see how happy they were, to see them get up and down the floor and play someone else that doesn’t have Canton on their jersey,” he said. “All-in-all, it kinda felt a little normal even though it wasn’t normal.”
“I was happy for them,” Medeiros said “For them to get a win and see eight or nine kids contribute was awesome to see. Their smiles, their spirit and their energy (were great). They were constantly cheering on their teammates.”
Sam Yankee had six points for the Warriors while Camille Kashnig had three. Bronson, Sophia Stamos and Ashlyn Cebellero had two each.
Alana Picard led Windsor Locks with 14 points while Tristan Oberg had six.
“We were all pleasantly surprised to have a season,” Brown said. “We are very excited. I didn’t think we would be able to play so we’re making the most of it – even if it isn’t a regular season.”
To help minimize the spread of the contagious COVID-19 virus, attendance is limited. No visiting fans are allowed and only two parents or siblings per athlete are allowed to attend home games.
Competition is limited to 12 games against five nearby schools from the North Central Connecticut Conference – Granby, Suffield, Windsor Locks, East Granby and Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA). The Warriors will play Windsor Locks and HMTCA three times.
There is a chance that there could be a league-wide NCCC tournament to play for a championship in the final two weeks of March if there aren’t spikes in the number of COVID cases. Nothing is set in concrete, yet.
Still, the team is together – something that is rare in this time of COVID. There are few opportunities for kids to be together.
“This is a perfect opportunity,” Bronson said. “Back in March (2020), we didn’t see an end in sight. This is really nice. We have masks and we have to be distant but this is so much fun.”
Canton returns to action on Friday when they travel to Suffield for a 5:15 p.m. match. Fans can watch the game on the NFHS network.
Canton won their opening game for the eighth straight season and for the 12th time in the last 14 years.
Canton 44, Windsor Locks 30
Windsor Locks (30) Abby Foster 0-0-0, N. Perez 0-0-0, Alana Picard 4-4-14, Isabella Canon 0-0-0, Tiajah Stevenson 0-0-0, Angelina Jones 1-3-5, Carly MacDougold 1-1-3, Gabby Sales 1-0-2, Tristan Oberg 3-0-6, Vela Dakin 0-0-0. Totals 10 8-18 30
Canton (44) Sophia Mates 5-2-12, Jenna Cuniowski 6-0-12, Paige Brown 0-1-1, Camille Kashnig 1-1-3, Allison Bronson 1-0-2, Sophia Stamos 1-0-2, Sam Yankee 3-0-6, Gaba Delsanto 0-0-0, Avery Brown 0-0-0, Ashlyn Cebellero 1-0-2, Hayley Keen 0-0-0. Totals 20 4-7 44
Windsor Locks (0-1) 7 2 9 12 – 30
Canton (1-0) 9 19 9 7 – 44
Three-point goals: Picard (WL) 2