Ellington has Tough Loss in Test Against Canton

By Danny Atkinson

ELLINGTON – For Ellington High girls’ basketball, Wednesday night’s game against NCCC rival Canton was a great opportunity to compete against an excellent opponent, and hopefully use their skills to earn a signature conference win. While the Knights (8-3) failed to succeed in the victory column, they consistently competed hard in the 61-48 loss, displaying quality defense and offense at different times.

Canton (13-1) ultimately secured the win by dominating much of the third quarter, shutting down Ellington’s offense through relentless pressure.

After beginning the third quarter trailing 27-21, sophomore center Lindsey Laughlan scored the Knights first basket at the rim roughly two minutes in. This would be the team’s only field goal of the third. The Warrior defenders constantly pressured Ellington’s ball-handlers and shooters, not allowing them to take quality shots, regularly forcing turnovers and blocking multiple shots. The Knights particularly struggled when inbounding the ball, and Canton scored multiple baskets off resulting steals. When Ellington gained rare open shots in the quarter, they had poor form and appeared rushed.

“We needed to get more in the flow of the game and run our plays, and I think we struggled to do so quite a bit,” junior guard Sam Curtis said when asked about the offensive struggles during the eight minutes.

Despite the Knights best efforts, the Warriors took advantage of their defensive play to begin operating more efficiently on offense. They went on a 17-2 run starting two minutes into the third. The run was ignited by star Abby Charron, who scored on consecutive layups, the second coming on a steal, to put CHS up 35-23 at roughly the 2:30-mark. As Ellington continued to be unable to move the ball well and committed turnovers, Charron and Gabrielle Schinkel smoothly made jumpers to quickly push the lead to 17. First-year head coach Teighlor Clare-Kearney reacted by removing all her players, including a few starters, and replaced them with all bench players for the quarter’s final two minutes. After freshman forward Alison Kozik finally put the Knights back on the board with two free throws, Schinkel and Allison Celmer each easily reached the line after going inside, with the pair hitting each free throw. The Warriors ended the third leading 44-25.    

“I knew Canton was going to come out ready to play in the third quarter, as I thought we caught them off guard in the first half. They’re a tough team from top to bottom,” first-year head coach Teighlor Clare-Kearney said when asked about the Knights struggles in these eight minutes. “We just haven’t seen teams at this level and been in many battles, and we’re young and still learning. I think if we get them again, we’ll be a little more prepared.”    

Ellington continued to show fight despite the disappointing third quarter, going on a run IN the fourth and briefly make the game close after the starters returned to the lineup. The run was led by Curtis, the Knights top player for much of the day. Her first basket was a three-point play made over a defender at the rim, making it 46-33 with 5:43 remaining. Following a layup by Charron, Curtis again scored at the rim on a graceful move, added a floater, and concluded her series of baskets with a three-pointer. Following a jumper by Laughlan, EHS had quickly cut the deficit to eight at 50-42, with 3:24 remaining. During this run, the Knights played more quickly and aggressively on offense and locked down on defense, with players clearly clogging the paint.  

However, Ellington ran out of time to make any memorable comeback, with Canton going on a 10-0 run to seal the deal. Grace Treacy scored at the rim over a defender and Celmer hit a floater to push their team’s lead back to 14 with 2:30 remaining, and Lauren Eschenbreener scored its final basket. The Knights scored its last eight points starting with 1:20 left, with Curtis scoring four.

“I think me pulling players (at the end of third) sparked a little bit of fire. We were getting somewhat complacent on defense and I know they want to play, so I thought sitting them down for a second to regroup did good things for them. I think Sam kicked it up a notch, and a lot of things began to happen defensively. When we run our stuff, we look very good.”

Curtis was the team’s focal point, finishing with 22 points and 7 rebounds. Laughlin added 12 points. Charron had a great game for the Warriors with 25 points, and Bowman had 10.

“I feel we were sharing the ball well and playing fast”, said Curtis when asked about the offense’s strong play at certain points. “We got a lot of open looks and ended up converting on them. We stepped up our defense in the fourth too.”

The first half was highly physical, with both defenses playing well and offenses being inconsistent.

After Canton took an early 9-4 lead, Ellington rebounded to win the first quarter 12-11. While the offense made a few turnovers which CHS scored off of and missed open shots early, players were patient and passed the ball well. The Knights were eventually able to make a few close jumpers and score in the paint. Meanwhile, players pressured the Warriors and forced multiple difficult shots.

Both teams play was inconsistent for much of the second, but Canton established momentum heading into the locker room by ending it on an 8-2 run. Ellington opened the quarter by being sloppy with the ball and rushing shots, committing multiple turnovers against the aggressive Warriors. Its offense took advantage and pushed the ball inside, getting to the line and scoring multiple times at the rim to take a 19-11 lead at the 4:23 mark. The Knights came back and quickly tied the game just over a minute later on free throws and layups by Curtis and Weber. Charron immediately hit a three, and both teams struggled from deep for the remainder of the game, getting points close to the rim. The defense particularly struggled with the height and athleticism of Bowman, who scored seven in the quarter. Ellington entered halftime trailing 27-21.            

Clare-Kearney and Curtis talked about the team’s defensive play against Canton and this season.

“Overall, I think we played stretches of pretty good defense and contained them. We only lost by 13,” Curtis said.

“Our defensive scheme is new to them, and they get better at it every day. Our biggest struggle is just finding those scoring threats,” Clare-Kearney said. “The defense is better every game and it will continue to improve, and I was pretty satisfied with tonight. Abby is just a really good player.”

While Ellington is fifth in the NCCC and twelfth in the overall Class M standings as of Wednesday night, it has failed to defeat a team with a winning record. It can do so later this month with games against East Granby, Granby Memorial and East Windsor.

Curtis said Wednesday’s loss was a game it could learn from and help them improve heading into the second half of the season, and Clare-Kearney affirmed this.

“Every loss is a learning experience, and when we watch the tape from this we will see the things we did wrong. Everything is fixable, and is stuff we can get back in the gym and work on. And they work hard and can adjust.”

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