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Granby holds off Canton to win NCCC Tournament for first time

Canton’s Sophia Mates puts up a shot during Thursday’s NCCC Tournament championship game in Granby. The Bears beat Canton, 52-44. More photos

GRANBY, Feb. 24, 2022 – In a special season of accomplishments, the Granby Memorial girls basketball continues to achieve memorable victories.

In January, the Bears snapped a 14-game losing streak to Canton with a 17-point victory, beating the Warriors for the first time since 2014. Earlier this month, the Bears won their first league championship in the North Central Connecticut Conference. On Tuesday, Granby advanced to the finals of the NCCC Tournament for just the second time in team history and for the first time since 1988.

On Thursday night, the Bears played with poise down the stretch to win the NCCC Tournament for the first time with a 52-44 decision over Canton. Senior Savannah Rijkse hit six foul shots in the final 20 seconds to seal the victory but she drained a huge three-point shot with 3:50 remaining that gave Granby the lead for good.

Rijkse, who named the tournament’s most outstanding player, had a team-high 17 points to lead the Bears (19-4) while Fem Jansen scored 16. Jenna Cuniowski had 20 points to lead Canton (12-10) with Sophia Mates scoring 15 points, pulling down a team-high 12 rebounds and blocking four shots.

Granby led by seven points midway through the third quarter before Canton went on a 13-4 run to take a two-point lead on a basket in the paint from Mates with 5:51 remaining. But the Warriors couldn’t build on their lead.

The Bears tied the game at 37-37 with 4:18 left on a drive to the basket from Alyssa Bordonaro. About 30 seconds later, it was Rijkse with her only three-point basket of the game, a jumper from the top of the key to give the Bears a 40-37 advantage. They never trailed again.

“(Winning this tournament) is something we’ve been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Rijkse said. “This is the first time that the Granby girls have ever done it so it just means the world to us.”

Granby made the NCCC Tournament finals in 1988 but lost to Ellington.

They beat a Canton team that had played four of the last five NCCC Tournament finals and won twice. They beat a Canton team that was 3-8 at one point of the season but had won nine of their last 11 games.

“That is probably the most special thing about it (beating Canton for the title),” Rijkse said. “This is the second time we’ve beaten them this year but before that we hadn’t beaten them (since 2014) and that was one of our goals this year. It just feels extra special.”

The Bears celebrate after winning the NCCC Tournament for the first time on Thursday night. More photos

Third-year head coach Mike D’Angelo was thrilled with his team’s historic win.

“I’ve been doing this for 18 years and this is, by far, the greatest team I have ever coached,” said D’Angelo, who was a long-time assistant with the Trinity College women’s basketball team and a former head coach at Conard. “They listen. They believe. They trust each other. They trust me. They trust the other coaches. This is a remarkable group I will remember forever.”

Canton (12-10) has come a long way this season. In the past few weeks, the Warriors have finally put the team on the floor that long-time head coach Brian Medeiros envisioned in the offseason. Injuries and COVID-19 quarantine issues have made this a challenging campaign.

“I thought we played with great energy tonight I thought we played hard for four quarters,” Medeiros said. “We had some opportunities that we didn’t cash in from the free throw line. We had some shots close in at the basket we didn’t get as well.”

The Warriors only sank 4-of-13 shots from the charity stripe.

Canton had a six-point lead early in the second quarter after a baseline drive to the basket by Cuniowski, 16-10 but the Bears went on a 10-0 run to take a four-point lead, 20-16, thanks to two jumpers from Rijkse, a jump shot and foul shot from Liz Squier and a three-pointer from Alyssa Bordonaro.

Granby’s Savannah Rijkse tries to block the shot from Canton’s Jenna Cuniowski in Thursday night’s NCCC Tournament final in Granby. More photos

Granby led by four at the break and extended their lead to seven when a wide-open Kayla Davis scored with 5:05 left in the third quarter, 31-24.

Mates had six points and Cuniowski had four points in Canton’s 13-4 run to put them up by two, 37-35, with 5:51 remaining in the game.

Canton cut the lead to one with 2:26 remaining when Mates sank a jumper. But on their next possession, Granby was very deliberate with their passing and made several passes before Davis found an opening and drove to the basket to extend the lead to three, 44-41 with 1:34 remaining.

The Bears sank eight of 10 free throws in the final 51 seconds to secure the championship.

Mates, Cuniowski were named to the All-Tournament team from Canton along with Davis and Rijkse for the Bears.

Granby will return to the court next week in the Class M tournament on Tuesday when they host Capital Prep while Canton will open play in the Class S tournament on Tuesday at Immaculate in Danbury.

Granby 52, Canton 44
At Granby
Canton (44) Sophia Mates 7 1-5 15, Gabby DelSanto 0 2-4 2, Jenna Cuniowski 9 1-2 20, Ashelyn Cebollero 0 0-2 0, Avery Brown 2-0-5, Sam Yankee 1-0-2, Avery Miller 0-0-0. Totals 19 4-13 44
Granby (52) Fem Jansen 6 3-4 16, Savannah Rijkse 5 6-6 17, Alayla Bolduc 1-0-2, Liz Squier 1-1-2, Kayla Davis 2-0-4, Alyssa Bordonaro 3 1-5 8, Katie Murach 1-0-2. Totals 19 11-17 52
Canton (12-11)                          12    6  17  13  — 44
Granby (19-4)                             8  14  11  19  — 52
Three-point goals: Jansen (G), Rijkse (G), Boronaro (G), Cuniowski (C), Brown (C)

2022 NCCC Girls Basketball Tournament
Friday, February 18

First round
Suffield 52, Rockville 42
Windsor Locks 52, Stafford 47
Coventry 44, East Windsor 24
Ellington 48, East Granby 36
Saturday, February 19
Quarterfinals
Granby 46, Suffield 34
Bolton 35, Ellington 23
Canton 56, Coventry 41
Somers 60, Windsor Locks 37
Tuesday, February 22
Semifinals
Granby 36, Bolton 23
Canton 45, Somers 40
Thursday, February 24
Championship game
Granby 52, Canton 44

Recent NCCC Tournament championship games
2021: Suffield 37, Windsor Locks 30
2020: Canton 46, Suffield 32
2019: Canton 62, SMSA 42
2018: East Windsor 43, Canton 42
2017: Suffield 53, East Windsor 29
2016: Enfield 48, Bolton 41
2015: Avon 60, Bolton 46
2014: Avon 43, Bolton 26
2013: Ellington 59, Avon 56
2012: Ellington 48, Suffield 45
2011: Ellington 60, East Granby 45
2010: Avon 54, Ellington 47
2009: Avon 33, Tolland 21
2008: Avon 34, Tolland 28
2007: Avon 42, Windsor Locks 36
2006: Avon 60, Tolland 46
2005: Suffield 43, Avon 39
2004: Avon 42, Ellington 29
2003: Avon 68, Ellington 35
2002: Avon 53, Enfield 45

 

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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