“Devin Foster,” Gordy said without hesitation.
And the answer wasn’t much of a surprise as Foster poured in 27 points, hauled in six rebounds and dished out six assists to help Canton survive with a 66-57 win over the Warriors.
“Devin was the difference between King Philip and Canton tonight,” Gordy said. “It wasn’t X’s and O’s, it wasn’t anything that we did special. Devin played a high-level basketball game tonight and just put us on his back. We kind of grinded and got some stops in that third quarter to get on a run.”
Canton led by as much as 19 in the second half, but struggles from the free throw line (9-for-22) kept the door open for a comeback, and King Philip nearly orchestrated just that in the fourth quarter.
Foster had 15 of his points in the first half, forcing KP head coach Mark Champagne to switch up his defense and put junior Kyle Layman on Foster defensively. Layman kept Foster scoreless over the first five minutes of the third.
But off of an inbounds play, Foster found space against KP’s zone and drained a corner three. That basket sparked an 11-3 run over the final two minutes of the third. Kyle Fitzgerald finished a layup to make it 47-31 Canton.
King Philip answered when sophomore Robert Jarest drained a three but Foster came back and hit a big three of his own after a nice screen from Tony Harris (14 points, seven rebounds). After getting a stop, Foster drove to the basket to draw the defense in and kicked it to Austin Maffie for a triple and a 53-34 lead late in the third.
“Devin has the ability to make adjustments in-game,” Gordy said. “He has an incredibly high IQ for the game and works very hard on his craft. He’s going to find multiple ways to either score or get others involved, he’s just that good of a player.”
It looked as though a three from Harris would be enough when he made it 60-46. But King Philip had other plans. Behind the strong play of sophomore Andrew McKinney (13 points) and Layman (13 of his 18 points in the second half), KP rattled off an 11-1 run.
“It’s been trending, we’ve had difficult fourth quarters so far this season,” Gordy said. Canton had to hold off a late rally from Attleboro in the opener and lost a lead in the final frame against Mansfield. “It’s something we’re working on getting better at, closing games out. In all aspects of the game in the fourth quarter too, we had to make free throws when it matters. It’s still early in the season and we’re growing.”
McKinney hit back-to-back layups, Layman hit two free throws and McKinney drove to the basket for two more to cut the deficit to six. Canton’s Matt Warburton converted down low off a nice feed from Foster with two minutes left to get it back to eight, but another Layman free throw followed by a McKinney mid-range jumper made it 62-57 with just over a minute left.
KP even forced another stop but turned it over without getting a shot off. Foster went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 30 seconds to ice the game.
“I thought our shot selection was better and we made some stops on defense,” Champagne said of getting back into the game. To their credit, Foster really was on balance. Ryan [Gordy] does a really good job coaching them to their strengths. Similar to Foxboro with [Joe] Morrison and [Brandon] Borde, Canton knows who their scorers are. And we weren’t disciplined on defense at times and [Maffie] got a couple of shots, and we knew he could shoot it.
“We’re still not there yet. We have five guys who haven’t played as much, even though they were their tails off, their discipline on rules struggles. It’s getting better though. But Canton is the most improved team from last year.”
King Philip led 16-15 after the first quarter with five different players scoring but Canton outscored the Warriors 20-9 in the second quarter, taking a 10-point lead (35-25) into the halftime break. Senior Jake Verille scored nine of his 11 points in the first half while Maffie hit a three in each half.
“When we have other guys making shots we become a difficult team to defend,” Gordy said. “But credit KP, they stuck with it and hung around and made a game of it.”
Tom Madden added six points and a game-high 14 rebounds for KP while Pharoah Davis added seven points. Champagne is encouraged with the progress his team is making after five players — all who play valuable minutes — got off to a delayed start because of the football season.
“From a year ago, it’s much better,” Champagne said. “The record is the same but we’re better than where we were last year. We just have to run our stuff with better discipline and then we’ll have better possessions. We’re still mixing more and more guys in. I thought McKinney had a very good game, I thought Jarest played well. You just can’t dig holes. Are we good enough to get back in the game? Yeah. But are we good enough to get back and then take the lead? We just can’t dig those holes.”
Canton boys basketball (2-1 Hockomock, 2-1 overall) will resume Hockomock League play in the new year, but will host Boston Latin on December 28th to close the calendar year. King Philip (1-2, 1-2) heads to the Bridgewater-Raynham tournament to take on Dorchester on December 27th.