It was ugly Christmas Sweater Night at the Canton Memorial Civic Center but there was nothing ugly about this game. It was just good solid basketball on both ends of the court as the Canton Charge and Erie BayHawks fought right down to the wire in a tight match that had everyone on their feet at the end. Although the Charge led from the early part of the first period it was a battle royal as the seconds ticked off the clock.
A total of 2,480 fans came out on a snowy/rainy/sleeting night to watch the Canton Charge defeat Erie 106-104. This was Canton’s eighth straight home victory dating back to last season and improves their overall total to 8-1 while the BayHawks drop to 0-7.
The Charge took an early lead of 28-24 thanks mostly to powerful aggressive playing under the glass. Arinze Onuaku tagged for 10 points (of the teams 18) with Canton outrebounding Erie 12-6.
The Charge stayed ahead in the second period mainly due to their superior offense which hit 9-of-17 from the floor or 52.9%. Seven of the baskets came from assists. Inspite of a powerful showing by CJ Aiken and Justin Brownlee (each hitting seven points) Erie still came up short 56-49 at the half.
The third quarter was a repeat of last night’s as Canton opened with a 15-3 run in just the first 3:15 with seven points credited to Kevin Jones which ran the score up to 71-52. Not to be denied, Erie fought back with an 11-0 run of their own in just 3:37 to cut the lead to 8 points with the score being 71-63 at that point. With seven Charge turnovers in the quarter that resulted in six points the Charge was able to stay ahead 80-73 going into the final twelve minutes of play.
The fourth quarter was a seminar on great basketball and toughness as both teams fought tooth and nail for points. Erie kept getting tantalizingly close but each time they got within two Canton would hit to keep it a two score game. With just 1:00 remaining, Chris Smith hit a driving layup that finally tied the score for Erie.
The Charge got the fans on their feet when Kevin Jones buried a three-pointer to jump Canton ahead but the BayHawks were not to be denied as Smith responded with a three pointer of his own with 29.9 left to play tying the game at 103-103.
Jorge Gutierrez fought through traffic and threw up a prayer that bounced on the rim forever until finally falling in. That was the final blow needed fot the win.
For Canton, Onuaku finished with 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting with 12 rebounds, one block and one steal in a season-high 30 minutes for his third double-double of the season. Shane Edwards came off the bench to add 16 points and grab seven boards in 18 minutes. Gutierrez scored six points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out a season-high 12 assists in 25 minutes. Jones scored 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes.
On assignment from the New York Knicks, Smith poured in 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting with four assists in 37 minutes for the BayHawks. Aiken had 15 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes. Lewis Jackson added nine points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals in 37 minutes of relief. Ricky Davis scored 14 points and grabbed six boards in 28 minutes.
Head Coach Steve Hetzel
(On winning back-to-back games against the same opponent):"I think it's very difficult to beat a team on back-to-back nights. Erie showed great resolve being down 19 in the third quarter and bouncing back. They picked up their intensity and their defensive effort and punched us in the mouth a little bit. That’s something that we have to continue to get better at is holding on to leads, executing our offense better with a lead and tightening up our defense when we have a substantial lead. We tend to relax instead of attack, and so our mentality there has to change. What I'm very pleased with there is our ability to close out games and the confidence that we have both on the offensive and defensive end. It seems to become a reoccurring theme of the droughts we're dealing with in the fourth quarter, but the confidence level that these guys have shown in the games hopefully will continue to win us some games."
(On how the team was able to hold on for the win): "In the huddles, we just kept preaching poise and confidence: shoot the ball with confidence, move the ball, find the open teammate and good things always happen when you play the game the right way. We just kept trying to preach that. Erie has stepped their intensity up, and I was proud of our guys not backing down. Kevin (Jones) and Jorge (Gutierrez) both had four fouls in the fourth quarter, so I held them on the bench as long as I could and those guys held down the fort until they got back in the game."
The Charge are back at home to host the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Saturday, December 21st, at 7:00 p.m., with tickets starting as low as $7! It’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Night, where every fan through the door receives a pack of Hall of Fame Class of 2013 Collector’s Set, with NFL licensed giveaways at their prize table in the main concourse! The contest will also feature dollar hot dogs presented by Sugardale and postgame autographs presented by FirstEnergy Solutions.
To purchase single game tickets or for all general ticket information, fans can call 1-866-444-1944 or visitwww.CantonCharge.com/tickets.