Sharon and Canton both utilized a 2-3 zone but their respective coaches had vastly different outlooks on how things worked out.
Eagles head coach Andrew Ferguson said it was the best defensive effort from his side all season.
Bulldogs skipper Ryan Gordy had just the opposite outlook on his team’s defensive effort, saying it was the worst output for Canton.
No surprise based on each coach’s feedback, Sharon won the game, 62-53.
“I think defensively we were so much better than we better than when we played them the first time,” Ferguson said. “We communicated much better, we took away the corner three which killed us the first time. I think we did a great job on Devin Foster, who’s just a terrific player. We knew if he got going, their guys would feed off that so we started with him. I know [Tony] Harris got a bunch and hurt us but defensively, that’s the best effort we have given for 32 minutes.”
The Eagles limited Canton to just six points in the opening quarter and then used a late surge – scoring seven points over the final minute of the first half, including five from senior Ricardo Ripley — to take a 23-18 lead into the locker room.
“It wasn’t about offense tonight, it was about our defense,” Gordy said. “We gave up a lot of uncontested shots, we didn’t compete hard enough defensive to win a game. That was probably the worst defense we played all season.”
Ben Stamm hit an early three pointer in the second half, Jimmy Fitzhenry (14 points, five rebounds) added one of his own and with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter, Ricardo Ripley (13 points) drained one from deep to give Sharon a 36-29 lead.
But Canton would close the gap with Foster driving to the basket for two and Austin Maffie draining a three to make it a two point game. Sharon once again had a response as Tommy Modelevsky connected from deep. Yet again, Canton chipped with with a layup from Maffie and two free throws from Brian Albert pulled the Bulldogs within three through three quarters.
Sharon took little time to build an early lead in the fourth quarter with a quick 7-0 run. Lester High drained a three for his lone bucket of the game, Ripley drove to the basket for two and Malik Lorquet hit two free throws — all while the Eagles defense kept Canton off the board to start the quarter.
“That’s what you need, guys to step up,” Ferguson said of getting buckets here and there from role players. “Tommy had a big three, Lester had a big three, and Ben hit a big three right at the start of the second half. We need those guys. We’ve been relying on Ricky and Malik, and Jimmy’s gotten better, but you have to have those side guys come in and hit shots. And add in Jayvon Monteiro, he played great defense and Sammy Kirshenbaum rebounded pretty well. That’s what we need from these guys day in and day out.”
“They hit shots – they didn’t hit shots last game,” Gordy said. “Sometimes it comes down to making and missing. I want to give them credit for shots, but we do close out drills all the time and we didn’t close out correctly all game. It’s a maturity issue right now. You can’t beat Franklin and then lose to Sharon in one week, it’s a maturity issue.”
Danny Hartnett connected on a three to get the Bulldogs’ offense back in gear and Harris scored twice in low to make it a three point game. Sharon sophomore Alex Kaufmann hit a pair of free throws to make it 53-46 but two from Harris and two free throws from Foster made it a one possession game with 2:22 to play.
But from there, Canton’s offense went cold while Sharon was successful from the free throw line. The Eagles ended the game with a 9-3 run, with seven points coming on free throws.
“That’s the difference — when we’re not active and we’re not cutting off passes, it’s an ugly defensive scheme,” Ferguson said of his zone being active, causing Canton problems. “But when we get active, when Malik can control the middle, Xavier [Hackett] helps us rebound, and when we aren’t giving teams second and third chances, we’re a pretty good defensive team. When we start giving up extra opportunities get into trouble.”
Sharon improves to 3-10 on the season, and 2-9 in Hockomock play. The Eagles will be back in action on Tuesday when they host Franklin. Canton (6-7, 4-7) looks to bounce back on the same day with a visit from Oliver Ames.