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Canton girls survive Salmon River challenge to claim overall sectional title


POTSDAM - The end of one drought extended another on Friday as the Canton Central girls basketball team outlasted Salmon River 51-47 in the Section 10 Overall Championship Game at SUNY Potsdam’s Jerry Welsh Gymnasium.

“After watching this game, you can’t tell me that it didn’t mean anything for these teams. They went right at each other and battled each other for 32 minutes,” said coach Mike Meyers after the Lady Golden Bears overcame a strong start by the Lady Shamrocks then scored the final four points of the game to capture their first overall title since 1977.

“We knew Salmon River was going to give us a good game but our girls really stepped it up toward the end. They didn’t panic. They got some big stops defensively and they came up with a couple of big plays on offense when they needed. This is just such a big win for our program,” he added.

The victory completed a championship trifecta for the Lady Bears, who entered the game having already claimed the NAC Central Division regular season banner and their first Section 10 Class C championship since 1996. They will now get set to open the New York State playoffs on Tuesday when they travel to SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury to take on the Section 2 champion starting at 6 p.m.

The Class B champion Lady Shamrocks were making their third straight appearance in the overall championship game and were looking to reverse a pair of lopsided regular season losses to Canton including a 61-44 setback in their division opener on December 4th.

“We’ve come a long way since that first loss to Canton,” noted coach Karen Francis, who was hoping to lead the Lady Shamrocks to their first overall sectional crown since 1982.

“Our girls gave it everything they had tonight. They played awesome defense and on offense, it came down to a couple of missed layups, a couple of turnovers and a couple of missed foul shots. Those little things added up,” she added. “This game really could have gone either way.”

The Lady Shamrocks draw an opening round bye for the state Class B playoffs. They will now gear up to host a quarter-final round game next Saturday at SUNY Potsdam at 1:45 p.m. against the winner of a first round game between the Section 2 and Section 7 champions slated for Wednesday night at SUNY Plattsburgh.

In Friday’s overall final, the Lady Shamrocks steadily worked their way to a 16-6 lead after junior Taylor Francis drained a three-pointer with 2:03 left in the first quarter before the Lady Bears closed with four straight points to cut the deficit to 16-10 heading into the second quarter where they turned up their defensive pressure and gradually put together an 11-3 run, tying the game at 19-19 on a pair of free throws by Emily Pinckney then taking their first lead with 2:06 left in the half on a field goal by Kali Frank. The teams then traded baskets before Frank connected from close range after taking a baseline bounce pass into the lane from Emma Rexford with three seconds remaining to put Canton ahead 23-21 at the half.

The teams traded baskets to open the third quarter before the Lady Bears took their biggest lead of the game with a 7-2 run that ended with freshman Tori Daley netting a pair of free throws to make it 33-27. But back-to-back field goals, including Francis’ second three of the game pulled Salmon River back to within one at 33-32 with 1:15 left in the quarter. Frank again came up with a basket in the final minute to put Canton head 35-32 to start the final frame.

Samantha Ghostlaw tied the game with a three-pointer 53 seconds into the fourth quarter and the Lady Shamrocks then regained the lead for the first time since early the second quarter when Aliyah Cook converted from the paint 20 seconds later. A three-pointer by Rexford sparked a 7-0 run by Canton and the Lady Bears never trailed again as the Lady Shamrocks battled back to tie the game 42-42 then again at 47-47 when junior Abby Kelly converted on a pair of free throws with 49 seconds left. Canton regained the lead 10 seconds later when Rexford converted on a short pull-up jumper. After missing a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left, Frank redeemed herself and sealed the win 13 seconds later when she smoothly swished through her next two attempts from the charity stripe.

Daley led the way offensively with 18 points as the Lady Bears improved to 19-2 on the season. Rexford finished with three three—pointers in a 13-point effort followed by Frank with nine, Katie Christy with four, Pinckney with three and Rachel Sanderson with two.

Kelly, a junior, paced the Lady Shamrocks (16-6) with 18 points followed by Cook with 12, Francis with six, Ghostlaw with five, Kwiio King with four and Jaiden Mitchell with the other two.

POST-GAME NOTES: Following the girls overall championship game, Section 10 officials presented the first Tony Murray Memorial Sixth-Person Awards to OFA senior Cavan LaRose and Canton junior Emily Pinckney. The award is presented in the memory of longtime basketball official Tony Murray, who passed away last fall following a short battle against cancer. The Betty Ahlfeld Memorial Awards were also presented to Chateaugay’s Trevor Lang and St. Lawrence Central’s Noelle Rufa. Going to players who are considered unsung heroes for their teams, the award is named on behalf of the former Massena Central basketball scorekeeper, who also lost a fight to cancer.

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