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WINTER JAM: Third-quarter spurt gives Canton the boost it needs to hand Grand Rapids CC its first loss

WINTER JAM: Third-quarter spurt gives Canton the boost it needs to hand Grand Rapids CC its first loss
BY: MATTHEW B. MOWERY Dec 22, 11:15pm

SOUTHFIELD — The Canton Chiefs had a near-perfect finish to one quarter in the second half of Saturday night’s Winter Jam game against Grand Rapids Catholic Central, ending the third on a 10-0 run that bled over to the start of the fourth.

Even if they left some openings with their free-throw shooting down the stretch in the fourth, it turned out that run to end the third was decisive enough to give them a lead they’d never relinquish, eventually closing out a 64-57 win over the Cougars.

“We talk a lot about finishing quarters, finishing possessions. We finished that quarter with a flurry. Then I’d have liked to have made more free throws and put it away. Usually we’re good tat that. If we get a lead, we can milk away three, three-and-a-half minutes — even four — because of how good they’re handling the ball and shooting free throws. But yeah, that run was pretty much the difference,” Canton coach Jimmy Reddy said. “If we’d have done a better job of defending without fouling, too, but we sent them to the line — which we don’t want to do, because it stops the clock. Some things to work on, for sure.”

The game closed out the day of action in the inaugural State Champs! Winter Jam hosted by Lawrence Tech, and co-sponsored by the Horatio Williams Foundation.

It was also a fourth straight win for the Chiefs (4-1) after opening the season with a three-point loss to reigning Class C champion Detroit Edison at the Ypsilanti Tip-Off Classic.

The Class B runner-up last year, Catholic Central (5-1) came into the game unbeaten, but found itself trailing early, before a 10-2 spurt to start the second quarter allowed them to take a 20-15 lead. Canton pulled back ahead at halftime, 29-27, then answered a GRCC run early in the third quarter with the big spurt of their own to end it. Vinson Sigmon’s 3-pointer put Canton ahead at 36-35, then the Chiefs answered Mykel Bingham’s jumper with the 8-0 run to end the third.

It was punctuated by a layup by B. Artis White — who had eight of his 15 points in the third quarter — at the buzzer, after collecting an errant inbounds pass under the GRCC bucket, and racing the length of the floor.

“First of all, they’ve got a fantastic team. Their guard play is incredible. Trying to keep those two (White and Sigmon) in front was a task all night for us. We missed some free throws and missed some shots around the rim that we’ve gotta be better at making. We make a couple of those shots, I think it’s a different ballgame,” GRCC coach T.J. Meerman said. “On a couple of those easy misses we had, they turned into run-outs, and kick-out 3s for them. Those are five-points swings in a couple of seconds, and when you’re that explosive, it’s tough to defend against.”

Sigmon finished with 19 points for the Chiefs, while Kendall Perkins had 14. It was the quickness of White — who had 15 points — that was decisive, though.

Catholic Central had 15 turnovers to Canton’s eight, and the Chiefs had 10 steals.

“He’s a heck of a player, no question. He beats you on the catch, coming off screens, and he’s lightning quick off the bounce, too,” Meerman said of White, who is committed to Western Michigan. “He tested our guys, but that’s a veteran team, an experienced team and we’re playing with one senior, some juniors, two freshmen, two sophomores right now, so these type of games are what we need for us to grow, because I think our team’s going to be a different team by Game 20.”

With that guard play, the Chiefs were able to sit on the lead and play keep-away for much of the final four minutes of the fourth, but they didn’t pull it off as perfectly as they would have liked, going 9-for-16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, and 6-for-11 in the final 2:31.

The Chiefs also sent the Cougars to the line for 13 free throws in the fourth — two of them in and-one situations — allowing GRCC to score with the clock stopped.

That gave the Cougars two of the elements of a potential comeback — scoring with the clock stopped, and an opponent missing at the free-throw line — but they couldn’t provide the third, hitting just one 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, when Austin Braun (Grand Valley) hit a step-back 3-pointer over 6-foot-6 Canton center Darius Robinson.

Braun finished with 12 points, while Devon Boyd had 11, and freshman Genesis Kemp had a team-high 13.

“We had a couple of layups in transition, after steals, that we missed. And we make those, it allows us to set up our press,” Meerman said. “But that’s the game of basketball. You make some, you miss some, and tonight, that’s what happened.”

Robinson scored just two points for Canton — hitting both free throws with 13 seconds left — but the highly-recruited, Missouri-bound defensive end has certainly helped the Chiefs in a lot of ways since making the late decision to rejoin the team for his senior season.

“He’s made a difference for us. He didn’t play in that opener. He’s helped us a lot with little things, but obviously with defending and rebounding, too,” said Reddy, whose team out-rebounded GRCC 36-33 on the game, with 10 of those on the offensive end. “He was trying to enroll early. That was what the talk was the whole time. I was always positive with him, and told him ‘I’m not going to beg you to play, but if you decide you’re not going to do it, obviously, you’re more than welcome to.’ He called me on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, and said ‘I’m not doing it. I’m not going to enroll early, and I want to play hoops.’ I said, ‘Come Monday, and we’ll get your two days of tryouts in, and we’ll roll.’”