NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Canton’s Julius Hicks hadn’t attempted a field goal all game, but when the Bulldogs needed him in crunch time, the senior captain delivered.
Hicks hit all three of his attempts from the floor in the fourth, including a pair of big three-pointers, to help Canton capture a 48-39 win on the road over Oliver Ames.
There was little separation throughout the first three quarters, and points were at a premium with the sides even at half (21-21) and again after three quarters of play (29-29). After scoring just eight points in the third quarter, Canton erupted for an 8-0 run to start the fourth in less than two minutes.
Sophomore Anthony Dilietizia drained a three off of the opening inbounds pass and a steal from senior Matt Chafin resulted in a pair of free throws for the senior captain. Another OA turnover, their third straight to start the final period, Chafin (15 points, 4 assists) penetrated the lane and dished it out to Hicks (10 points) for a triple to make it 37-29 just 1:46 into the fourth.
“I thought we executed a little bit better offensively, we played with more structure and more purpose,” said Canton head coach Eric MacKinnon. “We made sure to call something out every time. And defensively we got some deflections and got some steals and we converted. We really emphasized really getting organized and running something with a purpose.”
Oliver Ames sophomore Cole Craffey (17 points, five rebounds, three assists) hit back with a traditional three-point play to cut the deficit to five, but after some empty trips from both sides, Hicks took a pass from Zaza Francoeur (7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks) and hit a three from straightaway.
“He was ready,” MacKinnon said of Hicks. “He looked exhausted out there but he made them when it mattered. Like any high school team, when you make a couple of shots, it gets you a little more excited on the other end.
“I think they missed some shots they normally make but I thought when we got the steals and deflections, we made the right play instead of forcing something. It was good that when we built that lead, we kept it and didn’t let it go.
Caden Mirliani finished a tough layup through contact to give Canton the first double-digit lead of the game at 42-32, and even when OA answered, the Bulldogs broke the press and a long possession finished with a layup from Hicks.
“The start of the fourth quarter was the difference,” said Oliver Ames head coach Oliver Vil. “They hit a big three, we missed one, and that’s kind of been the story for us the last couple of games with these little runs and we don’t stop the bleeding when we should.
“We started to play hero ball a little bit, and that’s something you get when you’re a young team. Defensively we’ve done well, we were second in the league in points against. We’re just hurting a little bit on the offensive end, and hopefully, that comes with more experience.”
The first three quarters featured back-and-forth runs from both sides. Francoeur hit a three to open the game and converted his own miss as Canton jumped out to a 6-0 lead but the Tigers came alive and closed with a 13-0 run, including a pair of three-pointers from senior Chris Elias (9 points).
OA freshman Soren Lolonga (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Craffey combined for the final seven points to pull the Tigers level at the half, 21-21.
Lolonga was OA’s lone scorer in the third quarter, accounting for all eight of the Tigers’ points. Jamaal McConnell had success attacking the basket and had a late assist in the third to Mirliani, but Lolonga tied the game at 29-29 with a late free throw.
Canton boys basketball (4-2 Hockomock, 6-3 overall) hits the road on Tuesday with a visit to Franklin while Oliver Ames (1-5, 3-6) visits North Attleboro.