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Turnovers help Wamogo beat Canton in Litchfield Hills Classic contest

Wamogo’s Justin Ferrer (2) blocks the shot of Canton’s Ben Cuniowski (3) during Wednesday’s Litchfield Hills Classic game in Canton. Wamogo won, 57-45.

CANTON, Dec. 28, 2022 – It’s been a tough week for the Canton High community with the loss of junior Raheim Nelson on Christmas morning in a two-vehicle accident in West Hartford.

Nelson played on the varsity boys soccer team and he had plenty of friends on the boys varsity basketball team, including his cousin Khali Thomas.

“It has impacted our school community and our basketball team personally,” Canton coach Craig Archambault said Wednesday night. ”It’s not easy for a young person to deal with grief.”

Archambault hoped the basketball court could be a place of refuge. “We encourage kids to try and use basketball as an outlet,” he said. “Be where your feet are. There is a lot of stuff going on in the world. Be present and use (basketball) to be an outlet to be with your friends.”

Canton found little peace on the hardwood Wednesday night thanks to an aggressive Wamogo squad that harassed CHS for most of the contest in a 57-45 victory in the semifinals of the Litchfield Hills Classic tournament.

Wamogo (3-0) will face Lewis Mills (2-1) in Friday’s tournament championship game in Canton beginning at 7 p.m. Mills beat Suffield in overtime thanks to a three-point shot from Jon Schibi at the buzzer, 54-52. Canton will face Suffield in the consolation game beginning at 5 p.m.

Carter Nordland scored a 18 points for Wamogo, including 14 in the first half with teammate Wyatt Femia pumping in a game-high 19 points.

Canton (1-2) was led by Brandon Powell with 16 points but CHS was hampered with the loss of starter Luke Maher, who got hurt skiing on Tuesday and will be out for several weeks.

Canton’s Brandon Powell had no easy paths to the basket Wednesday night in the Litchfield Hills Classic in Canton.

“We knew Powell would be a tough matchup. I thought Carter Nordland played the best game of his career at both ends of the floor,” veteran Wamogo mentor Gregg Hunt said. “He hit some big free throws (in the fourth quarter) and did the job defensively all night. Offensively, he carried us at the beginning hitting some big shots.”

Wamogo’s defense was too much for Canton with multiple steals in Canton’s backcourt that led to immediate baskets. Wamogo also had three blocks on Canton drives to the basket.

“They are a solid well-coached team,” Archambault said. “Super fundamentals and I thought that was the difference. They played basketball as a team. They made free throws. They made shots. We’re not doing that right now.”

Wamogo raced out to an 11-4 lead before Canton rallied with a drive to the basket from Ben Cuniowski, a basket in the lane off a rebound from Ryan Benedetti and a three-point shot from Matthew Benedetti to tie the game at 11-11.

A three-point shot from Powell gave Canton a 14-11 lead early in the second quarter. Later in the quarter, Powell forced a turnover, drove the length of the floor and banked the ball in off the glass to give Canton an 18-17 lead with 2:40 left in the second quarter.

That was Canton’s last lead of the game. Nordland’s one-hand floated with 2:17 left gave Wamogo a 19-18 lead. After Canton inbounded the ball, Nordland stole the ball in the backcourt and took two steps and drove to the basket to push the lead to 21-18.

Femia’s layup with 0.2 seconds left gave Wamogo a 23-18 halftime lead.

Wamogo scored the first seven points of the third quarter to extend the lead to 10. Canton cut the lead to seven twice but could get no closer.

Wamogo’s Drew Lutz (13) gets a hand on the shot from Canton’s Ryan Benedetti (21) as Justin Ferrer (2) blocks the path to the basket in Wednesday night’s game in Canton.

In the opening game, Connor McAtee had 19 points to lead Mills with three 3-point goals. The Spartans drained nine shots from three-point range with Schibi sinking four from long range for his 12 points.

Suffield was led by Michael Coggins with 26 points. Wildcat teammate Quinn Lyman had all eight of his points in the fourth quarter.

Canton won the Classic championship a year ago with a dominating win over Wamogo after beating Lewis Mills on a buzzer-beating shot in the semifinals.

While Wamogo has been a consistent participant in the tournament, the Litchfield Hills Classic has been played in multiple locations over the last decade including Wamogo and Shepaug Valley in Washington.

Wamogo 57, Canton 45
At Canton
Wamogo (57) Anthony Turtoro 2-0-5, Justin Ferrer 4-0-9, Carter Nordland 7-4-18, Preston Cordeau 0-0-0, Drew Lutz 1-0-2, Wyatt Femia 8-3-19, Chad Crane 0-0-0. Adrian Garcia 1-0-2. Totals 24-7-57
Canton (45) Taylor Kim 0-0-0, Khali Thomas 1-0-2, Brandon Powell 6-3-16, Matthew Benedetti 4-2-12, Ryan Cuniowski 0-0-0, Ryan Benedetti 5-0-10. Totals 17-8 45
Wamogo (3-0)                 11  12  16  18  — 57
Canton (1-2)                     11    7  14  13 – 45
Three-point goals: Powell (C), M. Bendetti (C) 2, Turtoro (W), Ferrer (W)

Lewis Mills 54, Suffield 52, OT
At Canton
Lewis Mills (54) Gavin Daly 2-0-6, Jon Schibi 4-0-12, Eli Pelletier 0-0-0, Charlie Joiner 3-2-8, Jack Stanislaw 2-2-6, Tristan Mooney 0-0-0, Connor McAtee 7-2-19, Connor Evans 0-3-3. Totals 18-9-54
Suffield (52) Nick Vancott 2-0-4, Michael Coggins 8-9-26, Kik Donovan 2-0-5, Nick Sattan 3-0-6, Brady Anderson 0-0-0, Quinn Lyman 3-2-8, Sam Evans 1-0-3. Totals 18-11-52
Lewis Mills (2-1)              12  8  13  12  9  — 54
Suffield (1-2)                    9  13  11  10  7  — 52
Three-point goals: Coggins (S) 2, Donovan (S), Evans (S), Daly (LM) 2, Schibi (LM) 4, McAtee (LM) 3

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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