Canton wins the Class S Title with a 60-51 win over Thomaston behind Emily Briggs.
UNCASVILLE: There were no secrets, there could be no secrets.
Heck, the two teams playing in the Class S State Championship game on Saturday, the Canton Warriors and Thomaston Golden Bears, know each other so well that they probably celebrate birthdays together.
On Saturday night, though, only one of them, the Warriors, will be celebrating the ultimate prize, after coming away with an impressive 60-51 win over the Golden Bears behind a dominant performance from senior Emily Briggs.
The Warriors knew what they wanted to do coming in, and it revolved around stopping the Golden Bears two stars, Casey Carangelo and Julia Quinn. While each got their points (Quinn 23 and Carangelo 15), they had to work awfully hard for each and every one of them.
Canton takes the rubber match of the three-game title bout with the win and has won the last two.
Thomaston, which was appearing in their fifth consecutive Class S title game, went 2-3 over that five-year stretch, but how many schools of any size would kill just to find itself in this position simply once?
From the outset, the Canton strategy seemed to be an obvious one, focus on the two scorers the Bears brought with them and dare someone else to beat them.
Canton head coach Brian Medeiros got some stellar defense from junior guard Belle Magna, who was in the business of denying Quinn any shot at getting her hands on the ball and it worked early.
"Belle Magna may be the best individual defensive player I have every coached," Medeiros said. "She's an antagonist and we knew we would bother her (Quinn). We knew speed would finally get to her and by having her (Magna) in her face constantly would frustrate her and you could see it did. She scored alot of points, but she had to work for everything she got.
Keeping the ball in the hands of players who were not used to having to pull the trigger that often paid off early for CVanton.
In the first quarter, Thomaston took 16 shots, only two by players not named Quinn or Carangelo and a trend was set.
Quinn nailed a long three-pointer with just over three minutes left in the quarter to put Thomaston up 7-4, but Briggs took over from there, putting on her own 8-0 run on a variety of shots to take the lead for good.
Throw in a last second three-pointer at the buzzer after the Bears had missed a potential game trying three on their previous possession, and it was a six-point swing and a 15-9 lead after one.
While the Warriors were getting scoring from four players, the Bears not named above had just one point in the first 16 minutes (a Camryn Capaldo free throw) and the lead ballooned to 12 at the break at 30-18.
Canton shot 46.4 percent from the floor (13-28) in the first half, while the Bears connected on just 7-of-30 shots (23.3 percent).
Carangelo was having her challenges early on in the first half, going against 6’3” sophomore Sarah Bowman in the paint, who challenged the Thomaston senior at every turn and forcing a 3-for-15 shooting first half.
"I got my shots," Carangelo said. "They just were not falling."
The senior star does end her career as the school's all-time leading scorer, having reached the mark in the first quarter off a pass from Quinn for a lay-up.
Canton move the lead out to 16 at 34-18 early in the third and threatened to run away with this one, but in true Golden Bears fashion, the team from the passionate little town that has a special place in their hearts for this group, did go fade quietly into the night.
Capaldo drained a three pointer to cap a 7-0 run, the first basket scored by another Golden Bear not named Quinn or Carangelo to bring the fifth-seed back to within eight at 34-26.
The lead for the number three seed would continue to shrink after an Alexa Sanson offensive put back and four straight points from Quinn, two on free throws and another on a jumper and suddenly this was a six-point game at 38-32.
Enter Briggs who calmly drove to the basket, was fouled and sank both free throws. The lead was seven at 41-34 entering the fourth and it was still possible for another terrific Thomaston comeback if not for number 22.
Briggs took over once again, scoring three straight baskets on three great plays.
On the first, the talented upperclassmen drove to the foul line, stopped and found the bottom of the net.
On the team's next possession, off an out-of-bounds play, Briggs found teammate Abigail Skinner, who got it right back to Briggs for an easy lay-up. Her third bucket was assisted on by Bowman on a nifty pass and just like that, the lead was a big one again at 47-34.
Each and every time the Bears got close, Canton had an answer. The hole dug late in the first half and early in the second was too much for the proud Berkshire League representative to recover from.
For the past three years, these two small schools have done their towns proud.
Here’s hoping we figure out a way to get back here again next year. We have all gotten kind of used to coming to The Sun in early march.