North Attleboro Edges Canton In Overtime Thriller

North Attleboro boys basketball Julius Hicks Edan Kelley
Canton’s Julius Hicks goes up for a shot with North Attleboro’s Edan Kelley defending. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It was a tale of two halves between the Canton and North Attleboro boys basketball teams.

But the overtime period? That was completely up for grabs.

In the end, the pendulum swung in favor of the Rocketeers just once more than it did for the visiting Bulldogs as North Attleboro claimed a 52-50 win over Canton inside Kenneth Pickering Gymnasium.

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The decision was split after 32 minutes of action, North Attleboro claiming a double-digit first half advantage only for Canton to completely flip the script in the second half, stifling the Rocketeers’ offense and turning stops into points, and a deficit into a lead.

“We felt good about getting to overtime because we were on our last life for what felt like forever,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “To get to overtime, we stole the momentum and their bench quieted down a bit. It was big to get points on the first possession. For us, it was just continuing what got us back into it against their zone and we had to keep playing good defense. It was a great Hockomock basketball game, felt like a playoff game almost. We made just enough plays.”

North Attleboro boys basketball

North Attleboro’s lead at halftime, 26-10, took a major hit when Canton came out swinging in the form of a 10-2 run in just over two minutes of action, putting the hosts on their heels. By the end of the third eight-minute segment, North Attleboro’s lead shrunk down to just five, 31-26, the Rocketeers getting a much-needed three from senior Tommy Onorato in the final minute.

It turned out to be a sign of things to come for Onorato, who finished with a career-high 12 points, and the Rocketeers. Canton’s comeback continued into the fourth though as a pair of free throws from Steven Burbank (12 points, six rebounds) preceded a three from Will Keefe (12 points) that gave Canton its first lead since the opening moments of the game.

Eric Mischler (11 points, eight rebounds) sliced his way to the rim for two, the Bulldogs earned back-to-back stops and Keefe tossed another triple in and Canton, on the back of a 12-1 run, suddenly had a 40-34 lead with 1:34 to play.










“It’s kind of been like that in the Davenport this year, seems like one team brings it for a half and another brings it the other half,” said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. “It was kind of the opposite when we played them at home, we had a good first three quarters and they came back in the fourth. We talked at halftime about how we could get back into this game. Instead of quitting, the kids made a commitment and the effort to really start rebounding and playing defense, which got us back into the game.”

North Attleboro had an answer to stem the tide. With the defense collapsing on him in the paint, senior George Ladd (16 points, 15 rebounds) dished it out to Brody Rosenberg (seven points), who hit his first field goal of the game with a triple to halve the deficit.

Ryan Connerney (13 points, five assists) pushed the lead back to five when he sank a pair of free throws but North Attleboro had another answer from downtown. This time, Casey Poirier (four points, eight assists, four rebounds, two steals) dished it to Onorato for a three with 41.1 left to make it 42-40.

Canton added to its lead with a free throw but once again the Rocketeers, who had just five makes from three-point range through the first three quarters, hit their third three of crunch time. Poirier was short on his attempt from the corner but followed his shot, got the rebound, and dished it to senior Edan Kelley for a three – his first make of the game – from the top of the key to tie the game with 12 seconds to go.

“Tommy Onorato, I’m really proud of him, the second half of the season he’s really stepped into a nice role for us and understood what it took to be on the court,” Mulkerrins said. “Edan, a senior co-captain, missed some time this year and still isn’t completely back but hit a big shot. He’s got that big moment in him.”

The Bulldogs’ attempt at a game-winner was off the mark, only getting a chance to chuck a shot off an inbounds play with 0.6 seconds to go.

In overtime, the momentum swings continued back and forth as North opened the scoring when Ladd converted an offensive rebound but Canton went back ahead on their third look of the possession on a Mischler three, with Dillon Nguyen’s offensive rebound the catalyst of the play.

North Attleboro boys basketball

But just seconds after Mischler gave the visitors a slight lead, Rosenberg hit his second three of the night to put the hosts ahead. The teams traded stops as the game ticked under a minute to go, North Attleboro getting its biggest stop forcing a turnover. With the shot clock shrinking, Onorato stepped up and drained another three, this one with 14 seconds to go in overtime, to give North a 51-46 lead.

Canton fought to the very end, getting two free throws from Burbank to make it a one-possession game. A trap on the inbounds led to a jump ball and Canton getting possession back. Another foul led to two free throws from Connerney, making it a one-point game, 51-50, with 7.8 seconds to go.

The Bulldogs trapped once again and got another jump ball called, but the ball stayed with the Rocketeers. Rosenberg added a free throw to make it 52-50, and North Attleboro held on as Canton’s half-court heave was just off the mark.

North Attleboro had full control of the opening half, hitting 7-of-10 field goals from two-point range to go along with four three-pointers. And on the defensive end, the Rocketeers were doing just enough to keep the streaky Bulldogs from getting going.

Tied early, North closed the final three minutes of the first with an 8-0 burst. Onorato hit his first three of the game, Poirier added a triple, and Ladd attacked the rim for two and a 14-6 lead after one.




Big Red’s run continued into the second with Jared Vacher tossing in a three, Ladd getting back-to-back baskets and Nate Bennett scoring from in close for a 17-0 run in total. Jimmy Caraballo added a three as well as North staked a 26-10 halftime lead.

“Basketball is a game of runs and there’s some psychology behind it,” Mulkerrins said. “I thought the scoreboard was deceptive at half. I thought we played good but not as good as the other night and I felt Canton missed a lot of shots that they can make. I told them at half, if they make a couple in the second half they are going to relax, and then their defense will get better, and sure enough they hit some shots right away. Then the basket on our end starts looking smaller.

“Coach Gordy did a great job adjusting, made some changes. You never know exactly what you’re going to get with him, you’ll get the kitchen sink of tricks and if you aren’t mentally ready, which we learned on Monday night, you’re going to be on the wrong side of games against them. So hats off to them, they had a great season with a lot of great seniors, we have nothing but respect for that program.”

After North found success against Canton’s 1-3-1 defense in the first half, the Bulldogs elected to shake things up defensively, going with a 2-3 zone — a defense they hadn’t utilized all season.

Despite their inexperience in the set, the defense was very effective as North’s offense came to a screeching halt, managing just five points in the third. Meanwhile, those stops turned into buckets for the Bulldogs. Connerney scored on Canton’s first possession, Keefe got going with a triple, and Mischler added one from downtown as well. Burbank got a layup to fall and Canton’s 10-2 run to open the second half turned the game around.

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“We haven’t practiced the 2-3 zone this season,” Gordy said. “Ladd’s a nightmare for us to match up with, Rosenberg, Poirier, and Kelley are all really good players. I didn’t think we could guard them man-to-man for an extended period of time. We had a lot of success with the 1-3-1 on Monday, they figured out some things tonight. They were getting to us on the glass so we went to the 2-3 to try and clean some things up on the rebounding which I thought helped big time in the game.

“It all flows, once you’re getting stops you can push in transition. Will Keefe got hot a little bit in the second half and a lot of those came from us getting stops, getting out, and not letting them set up in the half court.”

North Attleboro (5-2 Davenport, 5-2 overall) is back in action on Monday when it hosts Foxboro. Canton wraps up its season at 4-6 in the Davenport and 4-9 overall.

North Attleboro boys basketball

Canton Closes Strong To Knock Off Knights

Canton boys basketball Eric Mischler
Canton senior Eric Mischler beats the buzzer with a shot over Stoughton defenders at the end of the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Canton entered Thursday night’s contest against Stoughton well aware it was at a severe height disadvantage.

Canton boys basketball

And as the game went on, the Black Knights slowly found ways to get the ball into the paint to exploit that advantage.

But in crunch time, with the game hanging in the balance, the Bulldog defense slammed the door shut. Canton didn’t give Stoughton a single look inside, holding the Knights scoreless for the final 3:33 of the game to secure a 46-40 win on the road.

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Senior Eric Mischler took a pass from Steve Burbank and drained a three early in the fourth to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game, 41-33. But over the next three minutes, the Black Knights clawed back into it.

Canton boys basketball

Jake Queeney crashed the offensive glass for an uncontested putback, KC Ugwuakazi (15 points, 12 rebounds) converted putback, and two possessions later, converted an old-fashioned three-point play to bring the hosts within one possession, down 43-40.

The Black Knights, however, never attempted another shot from in close the rest of the way, nor did they get a second chance on offense as Canton cleaned up the boards. Stoughton’s final seven possessions resulted in two turnovers and five three-point attempts.

“For us, it was about ball pressure, pressuring the guy making the pass,” said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy, now in his 10th season at the helm of the Bulldogs. “KC is a problem down low, he is a good player. “Sometimes we did a good job of it and they struggled to get the pass in and it allowed our help defense to rotate, and the times we were late they got good touches and scored. I thought it all about just pressuring them.”

Junior Lanse Dorcelus sliced through the Stoughton defense and scored at the rim with just under two minutes to play to pad Canton’s lead. More stops and a free throw from Dillon Nguyen sealed the deal.










“I think a lot of just comes back to practice,” said first-year Stoughton head coach Evan Taylor. “It’s obviously a strange year, this is only our fourth day that we’ve been together in the past two weeks and two of those days were games. I think as the season goes on, we’ll eliminate some of the mistakes you saw tonight, we’ll study the film more, and get back on track.”

“Canton was doing a good job [preventing it], they are a good defensive team, well-coached but we just didn’t execute,” Taylor said about getting enough paint touches. “We were trying to get some looks inside but I think the lack of execution comes from the lack of practice.”

Mischler (game-high 17 points) helped the Bulldogs get off to a strong start on the offensive end. The team’s leading scorer last season, the Black Knights bottled Mischler up on Tuesday night, holding the senior to just eight points. On Thursday, Mischler came out and hit an early three and had six points in the opening quarter.

Canton boys basketball

After just two makes in the first quarter, Stoughton’s offense found a bit of a groove in the second. Connor Andrews came off the bench with five straight points and the Knights scored six straight attacking the rim. Elisha Claude, the defending Hockomock League champion in the indoor high jump who is playing hoops this season with track delayed, drained a triple and Stoughton had its largest lead at 21-17.

Canton was quick to answer as Nguyen found Mischler wide open cutting to the basket, Dorcelus tied the game on a fast break, and Mischler hit a turnaround midrange jumper at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 23-21 lead at the break.

“[Stoughton] did a really good job on Eric on Tuesday,” Gordy said. “To his credit, Eric watched a ton of film and studied some things he wasn’t doing right and he just came out with a different mindset tonight. He came out like a senior all-star, it’s his team. His mindset and approach was great after they had a really good game plan on Tuesday. And when other guys are hitting shots, it opens up everything.”




A putback from Matt Giglio and a layup from Mischler were answered by back-to-back buckets from Ugwuakazi down low in the paint. And a corner three just before the shot clock from Brady Conlin had the Black Knights ahead.

But the Bulldogs had three players step up and deliver shots over the final four minutes of the quarter that gave the visitors the lead for good. First, Burbank drained a triple for a 30-28 lead. After Waseem Sablon put Stoughton up with 1:32 to play, Ryan Connerney made three straight big plays. First, a strong take to his left past his defender was good for two.

After another Stoughton turnover, Connerney dished to Will Keefe (career-high 11 points) in the corner for a triple with under a minute to go. The Black Knights once again lost possession and this time Connerney knocked down the three himself just before the buzzer for a 38-31 lead after three.

“Six points felt like a lot of points tonight as far as a cushion,” Gordy said of those points at the end of the third. “So when you can knock down a couple of threes, it just opens up the spacing and lets us to hit some back cuts, opens up some driving lanes. In the second quarter when we weren’t hitting, they did a good job of collapsing their defense and kind of daring us to shoot. So when you knock them down, it opens everything up.”

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The Black Knights limited Mischler to just five points in the second half, but Burbank, Keefe, and Connerney all connected from deep to supplement the offense.

“When the other guys start hitting shots, any team is going to be tough to stop,” Taylor said. “We knew they had some other shooters, when they start hitting shots it’s tough. If we’re able to hit some of our shots, maybe it’s a different game but [Canton] played well, they were well-prepared.”

Canton boys basketball (2-0) is scheduled to take on Sharon in a battle of unbeatens on Tuesday. Stoughton (0-2) will host North Attleboro on the same night.

Canton boys basketball

Canton Survives Second Half Surge From Sharon

Canton boys basketball Nick Cushman
Canton senior Nick Cushman goes up for a layup in the first half against Sharon. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
SHARON, Mass. – To foul or not to foul?

Holding a three-point lead late in the game, it’s a question that has divided basketball coaches for years.

But there’s no doubt which side of the argument Canton head coach Ryan Gordy belongs too.

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With a 58-55 advantage with 9.7 seconds to go, the Bulldogs fouled as Sharon crossed half court, “well before the Eagles had a chance to think about launching a tying three-pointer.

It worked as the Eagles came up empty on the first shot and had a violation on the second. Canton couldn’t quite put the game away, missing their chances at the free throw line but immediately fouled on the defensive rebound.

Again, the Eagles came up empty from the line and a defensive rebound and free throw from Dillon Nguyen pushed Canton’s lead to 59-55 with 2.1 seconds left, a scoreline that held through the final buzzer.

“We have rules about when to follow under a certain amount of seconds,” Gordy said. “We were up three and we figured if we fouled, they can’t make a three and they can’t tie the game. As long as we know to get the foul at the right time, then fundamental box outs on the free throws, I feel like it’s the right decision every time.

“We had to do it twice because we didn’t get our free throws but finally on the third time, we got it to four and then we don’t foul.”

The Bulldogs had to hold on at the end because of a second half comeback from the hosts. Canton pushed its lead to 14 early in the second half but the Eagles got a boost from an unexpected source.

After Sharon managed just one free throw total in the second quarter, the Bulldogs outscoring the hosts 10-1, head coach Andrew Ferguson went deep into his bench, putting junior Owen Conway and sophomores Ryan Zunenshine and Sam Cohen — who had each played three quarters of the JV came — into the lineup to start the second half.

On Sharon’s very first offensive possession of the second, Cohen splashed an open three and on the next trip down, drained a contested look from downtown, as the Eagle faithful exploded in the stands, an atmosphere usually reserved for the postseason.

Conway took a feed from sophomore John Baez (five points, six rebounds) and converted through the foul. Despite missing the free throw, Zunenshine battled for the offensive board and putback, swinging momentum in favor of the hosts.

Cohen sank another triple and Baez sliced through the Canton zone for two, getting the Eagles within five at 39-34.

“Execution aside, our effort wasn’t good [in the second quarter],” Ferguson said. “I thought waking up the rest of the roster by playing the swing guys there in the third. Sam Cohen did what he’s been doing at the JV level, what he did the year before at the freshman level…he can shoot the basketball. It was good to see that and it woke the rest of the guys up.

“It woke them up and the first unit played their butts off. I told them if they played with that kind of effort in the first and second quarter, we win that game.”

Canton senior Robbie Gallery (16 points, eight rebounds) used a nice move in the post to convert at the time and then found junior Matt Giglio (nine points, seven rebounds) in the same spot for another two in the final moments of the third quarter to stem the momentum some, giving the Bulldogs a 43-34 lead heading into the fourth.

Sharon’s first unit responded to the wake-up call as Matt Baskin (10 points) hit an early three and Baez added one of his own to get the Eagles within one possession.

Gallery came up with a clutch offensive rebound and putback for a traditional three-point play only for Baskin to answer with a similar play. Kiran Chandrasekaran tied the game with a pair of free throws with 3:41 to play but Giglio knocked down a three on the other end to keep Canton ahead, 51-48, with 3:17 to play.

“Hats off to Sharon on senior night, that crowd brought it tonight,” Gordy said. “I think the most impressive part was [Eric] Mischler’s foul trouble and being able to play that game without our best player. He’s been our best player all year, he’s in the top 15 in scoring [in the Hockomock], and I think he played a total of six minutes, if he played that much. To be able to get a win without him was an awesome experience for our guys, guys that have been practicing and working really hard and tonight they got opportunities, and a lot of guys capitalized.”

Mischler, who averaged a team-high 13.8 points per game entering the game and had a career-high 36 point performance three games prior, finished with three points in those limited minutes.










Gallery again scored for Canton and sophomore Lanse Dorcelus (nine points, three rebounds) sank a free throw for a 54-50 lead but Caleb Gayle hit his second straight shot to halve the deficit and Baskin came up with a strong take for a three-point play and a 55-54 lead with 40.1 to go.

On Canton’s next possession, it appeared Andrew Burton (19 points, 10 rebounds) read a handoff but was called for a foul instead of a jump ball. Gallery hit both for a 56-55 lead and the Eagles lost the handle on the other end, leading to two free throws from Dorcelus to push the lead to 58-55, setting up the fouls at the end.

“We didn’t show up for the first half,” Ferguson said. “Mentally and physically, we just didn’t play well. We didn’t share the basketball, we didn’t set screens and that bled into our defense and we started losing guys, stopped communicating like we had talked about. I was glad to see the sophomores get a run there in the third quarter and kind of wake up that first group that needed it.

“In this league, you can’t play for 16 minutes, you have to play for 32 minutes. Against any team in this league, doesn’t matter what their record is, if you don’t play for 32 minutes, you’re going to get beat and that’s what happened to us.”

The Bulldogs had a strong start to the game, shooting 9-for-13 over the first eight minutes of the game. While Mischler and Gallery dealt with early foul trouble, senior Nick Cushman (14 points, six rebounds) gave the Bulldogs a boost with six points in the opening quarter. Six players scored in the first for Canton.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

”Cushman has been our unsung hero this year,” Gordy said. “He was slated behind Kyle Fitzgerald and when Kyle got hurt, he went into a starting role and he ran with it. He’s been one of our top guys this year, and he did some good things tonight before he fouled out. Robbie did some good things for us too, he did what a senior captain should do.”

Canton put up 23 points in the first quarter and would have had a big lead if not for a brilliant start for Burton. He scored 15 of Sharon’s 17 points in the opening quarter to keep the Eagles close before Sharon went cold in the second.

Canton boys basketball (2-12 Hockomock, 5-14 overall) is back home on Tuesday against North Attleboro. Sharon (1-13, 1-15) travels to Foxboro on the same day.