The offensive jumpstart that Canton needed started on the defensive end, as the Bulldogs’ defense came up with continuous stops that allowed the team to cash in in transition. And on top of that, five of the Bulldogs’ six offensive rebounds resulted in second-chance points.
That combination gave Canton’s offense the boost it needed and the defense did the result, earning a 53-35 win over the Rocketeers.
“It all started with our defense,” said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. “[North] has a lot of size and we were concerned about post entries so we worked really hard on defending it. I felt like we did a good executing our defensive gameplan.
“I thought North did a really good job in the half court against us defensively, we struggled. They did a good job containing our guards. We talked about it during a timeout in the quarter. We said tonight our best offense is going to be getting stops and then pushing the ball in transition. That’s a credit to North, they did a nice job taking away some things.”
Canton got off to a strong start, limiting Big Red to just a pair of field goals in the first quarter. The Bulldogs hauled in nine defensive rebounds and got out running, leading to a 14-5 lead after eight minutes.
North Attleboro’s offense got back on track in the second, which also helped slow Canton’s offense down. After a transition bucket from Devin Foster (13 points) put Canton up 21-8 early in the quarter, North’s offense rattled off an 11-4 run to end the half.
North junior Josh Montague (12 points, eight rebounds, three assists) was the catalyst of the run. Matt Seavey’s two free throws started the surge but Montague scored the Rocketeers’ next nine points, including a putback, a drive the length of the court after hauling in a defensive rebound, and one at the free throw line.
But as quickly as North got back into the game at the end of the half, Canton recreated its lead with a surge to open the third quarter. Austin Maffie (10 points, six rebounds) converted a putback to open the scoring, senior Tony Harris cut across the paint and took a feed from Jake Verille (nine points, seven rebounds, four assists) for an easy two, and then Foster capped the run with a triple, followed by a strong take to the rim.
“I thought our defense was bad pretty much throughout,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “I didn’t think we had any passion, I didn’t think we tried to do what we wanted to do. They dictated the pace and had a good game plan against us. We didn’t make shots but that doesn’t excuse the lack of effort. They killed us on 50/50 balls, seemed like they got everyone. Then we’d finally defend for 25 seconds, their shot goes up and we’d get beat to the rebound. We have to defend better than that to be competitive”
Big Red rattled off four straight points to get within 11 again but a bucket from Kyle Fitzgerald in transition was followed by a putback from Matt Warburton to swing momentum back in favor of the visitors.
“North did a good job mucking it up so we needed to find other ways to score,” Gordy said. “If you can get some offensive rebound putbacks or offensive rebounds that turn into points, and then also score in transition, those are the extra little things that make the difference in the game.”
Canton’s defense limited North Attleboro 10 points or less in three of the four quarters, 26% shooting from the field overall, and just four three’s on 19 attempts.
“The defense set the tone for us tonight,” Gordy said. “If we can defend like that and push the ball like that…that’s when we’re at our best. Especially since we sometimes play two or three point guards who can handle it and get it going in transition.”
Canton had an answer for every push North made in the final quarter. Junior Jake Petersen (eight points, nine rebounds) scored down low off a feed from Montague but Verille answered with a three-pointer. Peterson scored off an offensive rebound and Montague hit a step back triple for a quick 5-0 spurt but Maffie hit back-to-back baskets in response.
“Those second chance points kill any momentum you might have,” Mulkerrins said. “Points were at a premium, they didn’t exactly light it up with 53 points, but for us…I just kept yelling ‘wake up’ because I didn’t think at any point during the game we played to our ability level. It starts with us being aggressive, being passionate…being excited to be there. I just kind of felt we were a bit lethargic today and Canton does such a good job of getting Foster and Harris the ball and their other guys fill their roles great for them. Hats off to Canton, they showed up today and we didn’t.”
Canton boys basketball (3-1 Hockomock, 5-1 overall) will be back in action on Tuesday night when it hosts Milford. North Attleboro (1-3, 3-3) will try to bounce back when the same night when it takes a trip to Sharon. Both games are scheduled to tipoff at 6:30.