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Defense helps lift Canton to tournament championship

Luke Maher, shown in action last season, had a game-high 15 points to help Canton win the Litchfield Hills Holiday Classic Wednesday night in Litchfield.

Canton High boys basketball coach Craig Archambault got a peek of what the Warriors might be able to accomplish this season Wednesday night in the championship game of the Litchfield Hills Holiday Classic at Wamogo Regional.

For the second game in a row, Canton held their opponent to just 10 points in the second half as Canton won their first in-season tournament in 19 years with a dominating 53-30 win over host Wamogo.

“We played tremendous defense, absolutely tremendous defense,” Archambault said. “We played man-to-man (defense) the entire game. It was a really good defensive effort by the kids.”

The last time that Canton prevailed in a tournament that did not have pre-determined matchups on day two was when the Warriors beat Granby in the final of Farmington High’s Christmas Tournament in December 1992.

With all five starters graduating last June, this looks to be a transition year for the Warriors with plenty of new faces on the floor getting varsity minutes. There will be some growing pains and some offensive droughts. Playing in a pandemic, the lineup can change daily with players missing time due to COVID-19 protocols.

Luke Maher missed Tuesday night’s game with a non-COVID related illness but was back in the lineup and had a game-high 15 points for Canton (3-2). Brandon Powell scored 10 points while Khalil Thomas and Matt Benedetti had nine points each.

Isaiah Reece, who had the key steal and layup at the buzzer to beat Lewis Mills in Tuesday’s semifinal, had eight points. Reece was named the tournament’s MVP while Powell earned a spot in the All-Tournament team.

Canton had a 29-20 lead at the half but limited Wamogo to just four points in the third quarter to turn a nine-point lead into a 16-point advantage after three quarters.

“We played really well tonight. I am pretty proud of them,” Archambault said. “We got Luke back (tonight) and he is a huge piece of the puzzle. He had a great game.”

Canton returns to action on Tuesday night when they travel to Suffield to take on the Wildcats (2-3).

Suffield beat Lewis Mills in the tournament consolation game, 45-41, behind a game-high 23 points from Mike Coggins. Jon Schibi had 11 points for Lewis Mills (1-2).

NOTES: Canton did play in the Thomaston Savings Holiday Festival at Lewis Mills in 2016 and 2017 but there were pre-determined matchups on both days of the two-day event. The Warriors played in a tournament in Old Lyme in 2001 and 2000 but finished fourth in both seasons.

Canton 53, Wamogo 30
At Litchfield
Canton (53) Khalil Thomas 4-0-9, Brandon Powell 5-0-10, Matt Benedetti 4-1-9, Isaiah Reece 3-2-8, Connor Nadeau 1-0-2, Artie Hayes 0-0-0, Nathan Hiscox 0-0-0, Luke Maher 6-2-15. Totals 23-5
Wamogo (30) Charlie Coffey 2-3-7, Carter Nordland 2-2-6, Nolan Turtoro 3-0-6, Skylar King 1-0-3, Alex King 2-0-4, Alistar Brodhead 1-2-4, Brady Collins 0-0-0, Conor Smith 0-0-0. Totals 11-7
Canton (3-2)                   16  13  11  13  — 53
Wamogo (3-2)                13    7    4    6   — 30
Three-point goals: Thomas (C), Maher (C), S. King (W)

Litchfield Hills Holiday Classic
At Wamogo-Litchfield
Championship: Canton 53, Wamogo 30
Consolation: Suffield 45, Lewis Mills 41
Tuesday’s semifinals
Canton 37, Lewis Mills 35
Wamogo 62, Suffield 50

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 35 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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