CANTON, Mass. – Canton has shown flashes of improvement on the offensive end this season, putting together strong stretches that kept the Bulldogs close with perennial powers like Franklin, Mansfield, and North Attleboro. While there have been good patches, Canton had only reached 60 points once this year, against Sharon, before Friday night.
The Bulldogs clicked on offense for four quarters against visiting Taunton, including a 20-point second quarter, had 10 players get on the score sheet, and had a season high for points in a 63-47 victory.
“We kind of have had spurts throughout the whole year where we show signs of being a good offensive team,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette, “but stretching it over four quarters has been the issue…Today, was all about execution.”
The Tigers had gotten off to a strong start to the game, building an 11-4 lead early on behind five of Lily Patnaude’s game-high 24 points and four from Hannah Moniz. Canton rallied with the final six points of the first quarter to close the gap to just one and had five players with two points apiece in the first, including a layup from Erin Devine, set up by Maggie Connolly.
MacKenzie Handrahan (eight points, nine rebounds) scored on a rebound to start the second and Patnaude buried her second three. Canton scored six straight to take the lead, including a three-pointer by Jess Powers, who was playing her first game of the season after recovering from a knee injury suffered during lacrosse season.
Abby Kingman knocked down a three to regain the lead at 19-18, but the Bulldogs closed out the half with 12 straight points to go ahead to stay. Taunton struggled against Canton’s height, particularly when Handrahan went to the bench with her third foul early in the second.
“It was a close game and we need her in there,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan. “We need her leadership and just her hustle and determination and I thought we lost it when Mackenzie went out and we couldn’t regain it.”
Hannah Jerrier scored to give Canton back the lead and then assisted on a layup by Connolly (10 points, 14 rebounds), who added a jumper and pulled down eight boards in the first half alone.
“It’s hard to remember that she’s a guard because she’ll rebound more than anyone on our team, or on their team,” said Choquette. “She missed down here, was the last one down here, and raced back to block the girls’ shot. Her greatest attribute is she never gives up on a play; she’ll never give up for one second.”
Jerrier also assisted on a basket for Casey Shea (six point) in the second quarter, one of 18 assists for the Bulldogs on the night.
Choquette said of the ball movement, “We don’t try to put bigs in one spot or guards in one spot. It’s a motion-based offense where everyone has to be in the right positions and no matter where you are it’s fine for everyone to go.”
Canton kept pulling away in the third quarter, opening the lead out to 18 heading into the fourth. Jerrier was the key to the attack with nine of her team-high 19 in the third. Jerrier had all but five points in the paint (the other five were at the line) and Canton continued to get the ball into the paint, either off rebounds or over the top of the Taunton defense.
“They’re size absolutely killed us,” Harrigan admitted. “Many times we’d have them boxed out and they’d go right up and they’re just so much bigger than us. Give them credit, they were able to rebound well and that was really the difference in the game.”
Patnaude tried to keep the Tigers in the game in the second half, scoring eight points in each of the third and fourth quarters. Harrigan called it a “breakout” game for the sophomore.
“Lily came on strong and we’ve been waiting for that,” he said. “She’s been struggling a little bit this year, but this was a breakout game for her and we’re going to see a lot of good things from her going forward.”
The Canton offense continued to be unstoppable in the fourth. On back-to-back possessions, Shea popped out to the high post and hit Emma Murphy on back-cuts across the baseline for layups. Jerrier added six more in the fourth and Lindsey Barrett and Molly Ludwig came off the bench to knock down jumpers.
Choquette said, “I think a lot of it comes from playing really good defense. They like being aggressive, they like jumping out, they like trapping. When we’re playing defense like that and the excitement of being at home with the crowd and the band, all of that led to a really nice win.”