Canton’s lead was gone when the Chiefs got the ball inside to Taylor Hunley with the score tied at 23 and less than 2 minutes left Friday night.
No, there weren’t 2 minutes left in the second quarter. There were 2 minutes left in the season. Hey, this was Canton, where opposing teams need a court order to get an open look at a shot.
Hunley had positioned herself to take one more hook shot and, as she went in the air, so did Canton coach Brian Samulski, just as he had done every time Hunley attempted an inside shot.
“I’m trying to give it a little oomph,” Samulski said.
This time, the right-handed-shooting Hunley’s left-handed hook shot went in, giving Canton the lead with 1:56 left.
“I guess I just knew I had to knock it down,” Hunley said. “I was more focused. I saw the opening so I just shot it. It felt like it was going to go in when I shot it.”
After making the go-ahead basket, Hunley ran down on defense and deflected a pass inside, forcing Northville into its 19th turnover. Paige Aresco followed with two free throws, and a four-point Canton lead in the final minutes is golden.
Canton earned its way into the regionals with a 29-23 victory over Northville in a Class A district final at Canton. The Chiefs will play Dexter on Tuesday in a 5:30 regional semifinal at Novi.
This was a typical performance for Canton (16-6), which makes teams work for every point.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams we’ve faced all year,” said Northville coach Todd Gudith. “It’s a race to 30; that’s what we say when we play Canton. If you can get to 30, you’ve got a chance.”
Neither team made it to 30, but that didn’t matter to the Chiefs, who took away everything Northville (16-6) tried to do on offense.
“That’s our big thing — play defense,” Aresco said. “That’s our philosophy. We just play really hard man-to-man defense. We have good help side. We pressure the ball. We get after them.”
Aresco led Canton with 13 points, and while the Chiefs do a little bit of everything offensively, they are heading to the regionals because of defense.
“That’s been those guys all year,” Samulski said, pointing to his players in the locker room. “It’s their defense, their heart, it’s their desire. I know they’re going to guard and rebound. The question is can we score enough points to get it done. And we found a way to get enough points.”
They found a way when Samulski figured out a way to get Hunley the ball one more time.
“The key is when we pushed our kid deeper into the corner,” he said. “That forced their one kid to come out, so we ended up one-on-one with Taylor. But I’m not real bright, it took me awhile to figure that out, but we got it done down the stretch.”
And when Hunley went up for her game-winning shot, so did Samulski, 6-feet-5, just as he did when he played at Canton.
“All I was allowed to do was screen,” he said. “I played the post, but I was a shooter — a three-point shooter. Yeah, put it like that.”
Sorry, we don’t write fiction.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.
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