A doubleheader is an event usually reserved for the baseball field.
Due to postponements caused by bad weather, however, the Canfield and Beaver Local boys basketball teams battled on both Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 in the closest thing to a hoops twin bill. Even that quirky schedule could not cool down the red-hot Redbirds.
Canfield remained in the hunt for the All American Red Tier championship by blasting the Beavers on consecutive nights, 83-49 last Friday night on the road then 91-58 in Canfield on Saturday. If you add Canfield’s 65-41 win over Fitch last Tuesday, the Cardinals are now 16-2 overall and have not lost since the day after New Year’s.
“That was a pretty representative week of how it’s been going for us lately,” said Canfield head coach John Cullen last weekend. “We have been playing at a high level.”
Cullen’s Cardinals have been at their highest on the offensive end of the court. Sure, the duo of Fitch and Beaver Local does not strike much fear into the hearts of opponents, but any time a team can combine for nearly 250 points in three games it is clicking on offense. Canfield came out smoking enough in all three contests to melt the two feet of snow laying outside the arena. In each game, hot shooting by the Cards took their adversaries out of contention early.
All five of Canfield’s starters are averaging north of double-digits this season led by Mike Podolsky who is scoring 18.2 points per game. Podolsky was at it again in the home win over the Beavers when he netted five of his team’s seven three-pointers to finish with 31 points. Podolsky helped polish off the Beavers with 17 points the night before.
Joe Hoelzel is second on the team scoring 13.5 points per game and he beat up Beaver Local for 11 and 16 points respectively. Justen Vrabel scored 20 points combined in the two wins over the Beavers, which is right at his 10.5 points-per-game average. Podolsky, Hoelzel and Vrabel joined together last Tuesday to foil Fitch’s chances with hot first-half shooting. That triumvirate tormented the Falcons for 44 points combined.
Gene Wollet and Dan Campolito are the two other Cardinals who are slightly above 10 points each contest. Campolito was right at that mark last week with a total of 31 points while Wollet did his most damage in the second Beaver Local game with 14 points. He also helped defensively with nine rebounds against Fitch.
Coach Cullen complemented his high scorers for staying level-headed in a week where they had to play a lot of games in a short period of time versus lighter competition.
“We had an NBA week,” Cullen chuckled about the three games in five days. “It is hard for young kids to stay focused like that. I told them the season is in our hands.”
Canfield’s cagers truly do control their own destiny because if they are able to defeat Niles at home on Feb. 23 then the showdown at Poland on Friday, Feb. 26 is for all of the Red Tier marbles. Should a season-ending game between those two rivals be for anything less?
“We know what’s ahead of us,” Cullen said. “(The game versus Poland) will be a great game. It will get us ready for the (state) tournament.”
The Cardinals are the number 5 seed in the Division I tournament that begins Monday, March 1 against Uniontown Lake. One of Canfield’s two losses this season was against that Federal League squad way back on Dec. 12, 62-53. If the Cards get revenge over the Blue Streaks then they will advance to play the winner of the game between Canton Timken and Canton GlenOak. Cullen assures everyone that his kids will enter the upcoming playoffs undeterred.
“We will not be intimidated,” said the coach. “We feel we are ready this season to make some noise (in the tournament).”