One team left Tuesday’s game at the Nixon Gymnasium with a huge momentum boost, while another found itself still stuck in a mid-season slump.
Behind 19 points from senior tri-captain Joe McCabe, the Canton High boys’ basketball team earned a convincing 69-66 victory over and improved to 6-3 on the season (3-2 Hockomock League, 2-1 Davenport).
OA, however, has now lost four straight after starting the year at 5-0. The Tigers drop to 3-4 in league play and 1-2 against the small Hock.
“We’ve won a lot of close games this year, and that’s because we are very resilient and have good senior leadership,” said first year Canton coach Ryan Gordy. “They’ve really bought into a new coaching style and I’m very fortunate to have those guys [on the floor] in my first year as the coach.”
That resiliency paid off against OA.
After trailing by 10 points in the first half, Canton made the most out of its opportunities during the third quarter; a quarter that saw 11 lead changes.
But, a huge three-pointer by McCabe with less than a minute left in the third and Sam Larson’s last second shot during a 7-0 run gave Canton a 51-46 lead entering the last eight minutes.
“McCabe came in and did what he normally does,” said Gordy. “He’s a big time player and we can rely on him and Sam Larson made a clutch shot towards the end of that quarter that really gave us a lift that we needed entering the fourth quarter.”
While OA senior Jeff Babbitt provided a little spark with eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, the deficit was too much to overcome for head coach Don Byron and company.
“Our energy level wasn’t where it needed to be,” Byron said. “There were points along the way where we tried to recover that energy level. But by that point we had given them every indication that they can play with us.”
Despite a 21-point effort from senior guard Nick Bruha, the Tigers could not buy a basket. As a whole, the team shot just over 37 percent on 19-of-51 shooting.
Defensively, OA took too many gambles and as a result Canton got some good looks from the floor.
“On the defensive end, we gambled a little bit trying to make steals instead of staying in a good stance, which would have been a better way to go,” Byron said. “But that’s what happens when you get behind in the intensity level and the game is going to be won or lost on the next couple of possessions.
“On the other end, we had another one of those nights where we only shot a little over 30 percent,” Byron continued. “We had a lot of trouble scoring in our offensive sets and I think they did what they wanted to do. They played a solid, fundamental game.”
While OA is left searching for some answers come Thursday when they host Foxborough (6:30 p.m. at the Nixon Gymnasium), Canton has won two straight and has climbed into second place in the small Hock standings.
The Bulldogs will look to extend that winning streak to three when they host Davenport power Stoughton Friday night at 6:30 p.m.
“We’re pretty excited to jump up in the small Hock rankings,” Gordy said. “Stoughton is a very good team and we’ll have our hands full with them on Friday. But tonight was a very good win and I’m happy for our team and our program.”