ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Canton went scoreless for the first six minutes of the second half, allowing Attleboro to grab an eight-point lead in Friday night’s season opener for both teams. But, the Bombardiers struggled to take full advantage of their defensive effort and Canton was able to stay close until its offense finally found a groove.
After going six minutes without a point, the Bulldogs scored 25 over the final 10 minutes, including 18 in the fourth quarter, and they secured a 48-44 road victory.
“When we came out and we weren’t scoring, I don’t think anyone was hanging their heads or sulking about it,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “We were running good offense, we were confident in what we were doing, the ball just happened to not go in.
He added, “All the girls on our team have played together long enough to know if we keep sticking to what we’re doing someone’s going to hit a shot or someone’s going to get a rebound.”
Kiara Cerruti (team-high 16 points) hit a pair of free throws with 2:02 remaining in the third quarter to give Canton its first points of the second half and cut the Attleboro lead to 31-25. Ryan Johnson answered with a layup off a Liv McCall assist, but freshman Samya DaSilva (10 rebounds) drilled a corner three and Fay Gallery (10 points and five assists) hit a layup to make it a three-point game heading to the final quarter.
“[The lead] was two for a long time, it was three for a long time, and we just couldn’t pull away,” said Attleboro coach Marty Crowley. “I think if we pull away a little earlier then maybe it changes it, but we held them scoreless for six minutes and we’re not generating anything off our defense.”
Momentum had switched and the Bulldogs kept control at the start of the fourth. Lilah Milton, the only senior on the roster, scored a pair of tough shots from the right baseline and Sydney Gallery swooped in for a lefty finish to put Canton ahead 36-33.
Fay Gallery had struggled with her shot for most of the game but buried a step-back three to make it 41-37. Cerruti hit a lefty layup and hit a pair of free throws to keep the Bulldogs up by five, 45-40.
Attleboro didn’t go quietly. Nyah Thomas (game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds) made a steal in the backcourt and was able to finish in traffic, followed by a Gabby Bosh offensive rebound and short jumper to cut the lead to just one point.
Again it was Gallery that came through in the clutch. The sophomore, who had been more of a facilitator for the first three quarters, banked in a three to effectively seal the win.
“Fay was able to play with four fouls for the end of the game there and it was good that she did because she hit a big shot to help us win it,” said Choquette. After graduating four-year point guard Julia Hamilton, Canton will need people to step into that role and it was Gallery that took the responsibility for game one. “Fay took the bulk of it tonight, but you saw how many times she found Kiara or she found her sister down low, we got the ball to Samaya and she was able to create some things.”
The Bombardiers came out with the game-plan of putting pressure on the ball-handler, using an aggressive trap at the three-point line. It seemed to work, as Canton struggled to get a rhythm offensively for nearly three quarters.
Thomas was giving the hosts a spark on the other end. She scored 14 points in the first half, slashing through the defense and getting out on the break. Twice Thomas was able to finish plus the contact, once after a Lillian Froio block and the other after a block, rebound, and outlet pass by Meghan Gordon (11 rebounds).
“Nyah was phenomenal,” said Crowley. “She’s worked very hard at her game in the off-season and it showed. She’s one of our leaders, she played under control, and it was good to see her play like this.”
He added, “Our kids played awesome tonight start to finish. If they play like this then we’ll win games in this very competitive league. Give Canton credit, they made shots when they needed to.”
The game was tied at 11 after one, but the Bulldogs had only three made field goals and were 5-for-8 from the line. In the second quarter, Cerruti started to find a rhythm, knocking down a pair of threes and getting to the basket off an assist by Gallery. Sydney Gallery added four in the quarter, on a scoop and then a steal and layup.
It was 23-23 at the break and Attleboro grabbed the lead to start the third. Bosh (seven points) grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a short jumper, then Froio also crashed the glass to get a bucket. McCall finally got a good look in the corner off a Thomas drive-and-dish and her three extended the lead to 31-23.
It took Canton a while to get going, but things seemed to click into gear at the perfect time. The Bulldogs found the range and went home with the road win.
“In a close game, the ultimate thing is to win it and they were able to pull it out, which was awesome,” Choquette said.
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