In Todd Muckleroy’s first year as head basketball coach at Canfield last season, the Cardinals got off to a long losing streak to begin the campaign.
Coach Muckleroy knew that his second season had to start faster, but after losing the opener 55-48 on Dec. 2 at Federal League competitor Uniontown Lake, the second year bench boss had reason to be worried.
“It was a tough game for us,” said Muckleroy. “Lake was bigger than us with a couple guys 6-5 and 6-7. We have to be realistic when we play those types of teams.”
A lot of those worries were wiped away on Dec. 9 when Canfield climbed into the win column with a 42-40 victory over Champion in the team’s home opener. Although the Flashes are not one of the area’s most formidable outfits, getting an early season victory was still good for the Cardinals.
“It was an important win for us,” stressed Muckleroy. (Champion) only won two games last year, but they have some nice players and should win more games this year. We needed to come away from that game with a win.”
Canfield came away from the first quarter feeling good about itself because it was nursing a 17-12 lead. In the middle two periods, however, the Cardinals could not fend off the Flashes and were outscored, 25-18.
“We started well,” Muckleroy said, “but did not do so well later in the game. We had some seniors hit some big shots late in the game for us.”
One of those shots came off the hands of Matt Yourstowsky with 1:30 left in the game. Down three points, Yourstowsky sank a long three-pointer to tie the game at 40. Yourstowsky, who hit a trio of triples in the opener to finish with 18 points, followed that performance up by nailing four of Canfield’s five three’s and scoring a game-high 19 points against Champion.
With just 10 seconds left in regulation another Canfield senior, Kyle Brown, drained a bucket to break the tie and give the Cardinals their initial win of 2011. The 6-foot-3 Brown is back on the team after battling a couple seasons worth of injuries. Brown’s 11 points was second to Yourstowsky last Friday and coach Muckleroy realizes that the more he touches the ball the better Canfield’s offense can become.
“(Brown) has good size and is a good presence for us underneath,” said the second year coach. “I stress to the guys to get the ball inside to him as much as possible.”
If at all possible, Muckleroy would also like to see his boys do better in the rebounding department. Champion had a 28-21 rebounding advantage last week and was able to remain close because of Canfield’s constant one and done possessions.
“We need to make the most of our possessions and that starts with better offensive rebounding,” Muckleroy explained. “We also need to work on better shot selection.”
The Cards will have four games to work out those problems in the next couple weeks. The only problem is none of those four games will be in Canfield. Muckleroy’s boys traveled to Lakeview on Dec. 13 then will head to Struthers on Dec. 16. Road games at Warren Harding and Fitch await the Cardinals next week. Having a stretch of four consecutive games away from home this early in the season is somewhat strange, but Muckleroy will not allow the schedule to disturb him.
“I don’t mind playing road games,” said the coach. “Playing on the road gets us ready for the (state) tournament. Playing these road games now will give us a lot of home games late in the season.”