Little was expected from the Canfield girls basketball team when it played in the Division I district semifinals against Canton McKinley on March 3.
McKinley entered the game a perfect 22-0 and was not only ranked on top of the polls in Ohio, but also ranked number six nationally. Canfield would have had to have a powerful pregame prayer, a little bit of luck and a perfectly executed game plan to have knocked off the perfect Lady Pups. That was not meant to diss the Lady Cardinals, but there are 22 other victims (actually 21 because Canfield lost to McKinley in the regular season) that failed to conjure up that same formula in their meetings with McKinley. After the Canton kids’ 62-21 clubbing of Canfield March 3 in Alliance that total has risen by one.
The defending state champions were able to seize control of the contest early because they killed Canfield with claustrophobic defense. The Lady Cardinals didn’t even attempt their first shot of the game until McKinley held a 16-0 advantage. That initial shot came with just over a minute left in the first period. Instead of shooting the ball, Canfield was turning it over. Twelve turnovers by the Cardinals also preceded that first field goal attempt. For the game, Canfield incredibly had 28 turnovers and only 23 field goal tries.
“That was the best defensive performance I have ever seen,” said Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky bluntly last Thursday night. “We could not penetrate or even pass the ball. (McKinley) is an amazing team.”
A 10-0 run by the Pups in the second quarter made the score 26-2. By that time, there was nothing left for coach Pavlansky to do except prepare his postgame speech to the girls. That speech would be heavily directed toward seniors Cally Wollet, Kellie Kessner and Kaitlin Kaleel who ended up playing their final games as Cardinals on Thursday.
“I told our seniors that I was extremely proud of them,” said Pavlansky. “They were a special group and will always be remembered.”
What will be remembered from this 2010/2011 Canfield campaign is not the horror of the district semifinal loss, but the achievements of a 15-win season. While it was sad to say goodbye to that trio of twelfth-graders, the positive thing is that Canfield will only be losing a small number of seniors. The 2011-2012 season could prove to be a colossal one in Canfield because of the amount of quality minutes played this season by some of the underclassmen who are returning. Juniors Sarah Vrabel, Brogan Todd and Brielle Burton all made significant contributions to the Canfield club and should add senior leadership to their already polished game skills. This year’s sophomore class was spearheaded by the super Sabrina Mangapora who led the Lady Cards in scoring and rebounding. Her nightly double-double threats proved to be poison to opponents in the paint. It is a sure bet that Pavlansky will continue to build his offense around Mangapora’s mad abilities. Other sophomores who shared the spotlight and should continue to grow in their junior seasons are Allie Pavlansky, Kayla Barko and Abby Baker. Sophomores Ciara Phillips and Nicole Luklan and junior Karly Brogley may not have had huge amounts of court time this year, but will still be expected to develop their games in order to aid the Canfield cause in the future.
If all of the returning letterwinners play up to their potential next winter and get help from some unexpected sources then the Cardinals may be able to have a rematch with McKinley in the playoffs. Perhaps by then it will be the Lady Pups who end up pleading to the Cardinals for mercy.