NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Both teams came into Tuesday night’s game at the Beaupre Gym in a fight for second place in the Davenport division and both needing one more win to secure a spot in the postseason. It was always likely to come down to who could make enough plays down the stretch to decide a the winner.
Despite making only two shots from the field in the fourth quarter, it was Canton that came through with clutch defensive stands and clutch rebounds to pull out a 64-53 victory at North Attleboro and seal a third straight trip to the tournament. The Bulldogs closed the game on a 9-0 run, all nine points coming from the free throw line and five from Kiara Cerruti, who scored nine of her game-high 25 points in the fourth.
“We controlled rebounds, we passed it to each other well, we came up with good stops,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette, praising his team’s ability to bounce back after a last-second loss to New Bedford on Sunday. “We were in the right spots, putting pressure on them. To come right back against a team that beat us the first time on their floor, it’s not easy to win here, and really take it was good.”
North coach Nikki Correia said, “They fought to the end, just a couple of mental mistakes at the end, bad passes, throwing down at their feet when they’re cutting, trying to force it a little too much.”
Defense was the story down the stretch, but it was offense that was the story of the first half.
The Bulldogs got off to a solid start with Cerruti (eight rebounds) burying the first of her four threes on the night and Fay Gallery (16 points, five assists, and seven steals) knocking down a pull-up jumper. North answered right back with an 8-0 run to grab an 11-7 lead.
Regan Fein hit a short jumper off an Eliza Dion offensive rebound and assist and then got free for another jumper, this time off an inbounds feed from Olivia Forbes (five rebounds and seven assists). After Canton got within two at 16-14, Siobhan Weir (11 points) came off the bench to drill a corner three.
The second quarter went back and forth with the Bulldogs coming right back to grab the lead after freshman Samya DaSilva (five points) scored in the post and Gallery drilled a three, but Weir grabbed an offensive rebound to make it 21-20. Summer Doherty hit a tough runner off glass and then Fein saved a possession at half and drilled a three to make it 28-26.
Sydney Gallery (11 points) tied it with a move in the post and then assisted on a bucket for DaSilva. After Cerruti scored with her lefthand, Amanda Kaiser buried her only three of the night to cut the lead to one. Cerruti closed the half with a layup and Canton went into the locker room up 34-31.
North came out of the break and regained the advantage with an 8-0 run. Dion started it with her only basket of the night and then Doherty scored the other six, including a layup following a steal at midcourt. Canton responded. Lilah Milton knocked down a jumper and then Fay Gallery scored plus the foul following a Cerruti rebound.
With Fein receiving treatment on the sideline after twisting her ankle, North got a couple of big shots from Weir, who nailed a pair from beyond the arc to put the hosts in front 45-39. Choquette called a timeout and got uncharacteristically angry with his team’s effort.
“It’s rare that I’m emotional in a timeout,” he explained. “I just felt like the girls are better than they were playing at that time. The game was closer than it could’ve been if we were doing the right things and they know what the right things are they just weren’t executing. We went out, two good passes, Kiara wide open gets a three because we made the extra pass.”
The Bulldogs answered the call, finishing the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to grab back the lead. Cerruti hit a pair of threes, both on Fay Gallery assists, and Sydney Gallery was able to score in the paint to make it 47-45 heading to the final eight minutes.
Canton extended the run to 14 unanswered points at the start of the fourth. Sydney Gallery got an and-one with another post move and Cerruti continued her hot shooting from beyond the arc.
“Siobhan came in off the bench for me and made two big threes, but when someone goes out everyone starts to look around and think someone else will step up,” said Correia. “I told them whoever is coming in just do your job and it will work.”
As you would expect, North made one last run to get back into it. Fein returned to bury a jumper and Kaiser freed up Doherty for a basket. After a Canton free throw, Kaiser got only her second basket of the night and then, following another free throw for the visitors, Doherty cut the lead to 55-53 with a drive. It would be North’s last point of the night.
Canton went 9-for-12 at the line in the closing minutes, but also forced several turnovers, got a couple of clutch rebounds from Kayla Albert (eight rebounds) on both ends of the floor, and a strong effort down the stretch from Carly Fitzgerald guarding Kaiser (North’s leading scorer coming into the game).
Choquette said, “Kayla might have won the game with two of the rebounds that she got in the paint down here. Easily one of the best second halves she’s played for us. That means as much as a three going down or a block, she really stepped it up.”
“We have two more in front of us and hopefully we can grind one out,” said Correia. “I’m just proud of them, for me to come in my first year, change everything and being a running coach, all new offense, these kids bought in.”
Canton (11-9, 9-6) will try to clinch at least a share of second place in the division when it hosts Milford on Friday. North Attleboro (9-9, 9-6) will try to book its place in the state tournament when it visits league champion Foxboro.
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