Canton girls see Highland Tournament championship as step in right direction

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The Canton girls basketball team celebrates winning the championship of the 51st Highland Tournament with Saturday's 52-48 victory over Highland in Lewistown, Mo. | Ron Kinscherf photo

LEWISTOWN, Mo. — The Canton girls basketball team entered the 51st Highland Tournament as the third seed and with a losing record.

“I call it the state softball championship hangover,” Canton coach Danielle Baker, referencing the Tigers’ Class 1 state title from last October. “It took us a little while to get going.”

This week, Canton seemed to get everything going in the right direction. The Tigers added to their trophy haul, winning a Lewis County showdown for the tournament championship with Saturday’s 52-48 victory over Highland.

Canton had to overcome a rough first half. The Tigers’ leading scorer, senior guard Nariah Clay, picked up two quick fouls and sat for the final 12 minutes. With Clay on the bench, Highland outrebounded Canton 20-9 in building a 25-21 halftime lead.

Defensive pressure kept Canton close as it forced 12 first-half turnovers. Meanwhile, sophomore Macy Glasgow and junior Macie Fisher picked up the offensive slack, combining for 14 points.

“A lot of our players had to step up and take the initiative,” said Glasgow, who led the Tigers with 12 points overall.

Fisher finished with 12 points.

“We hung pretty good without her in the game,” Fisher said. “We kind of struggle normally (without Clay), but I thought that we did a lot better and we’re improving on that.” 

The lead changed five times in the third quarter, the last coming on a 3-pointer by Fisher with 1:01 remaining that gave Canton a 35-34 lead.

“I thought that was a huge momentum changer because we had kind of held them at bay,” Highland coach Ashton Jaco said.

Emma Hultz’s 3-pointer with 4:20 remaining in regulation started a 7-0 run that put the Tigers up 47-38. 

Canton junior Kenall Weathers contributed six fourth-quarter points off the bench to help finish off the victory, giving the Tigers their first Highland Tournament title since 2008.

“She was huge for us,” Baker said of Weathers. “I told the team she was our saving grace.”

Despite being outrebounded by 15 for the game, Canton’s full-court defensive pressure provided additional possessions. 

“We just wanted to speed them up to kind of make them turn the ball over.” Baker said. “Because I knew that’s one of their weaknesses, we could attack.”  

Highland committed 26 turnovers, while Canton had only 11.

Senior Ansley Bringer paced the Cougars (10-6) with 19 points.

“To even be in this game, nobody expected that,” said Jaco, whose team was seeded fifth in the eight-team event. “I think as a coaching staff, we know how capable our kids are. They’re able to see what happens when we continue to be consistent and the good things that can come from that. I think that fuels us to continue to try and get better every single day.”

The Tigers and the Cougars get to do it all over again Tuesday in Canton. 

“I’m so excited,” Glasgow said. “We play them Tuesday. I’m hoping we made a statement.”

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