Canfield girls basketball head coach Pat Pavlansky is a simple man when it comes to discussing his team's chances of winning a game.
The veteran coach always names winning the battles of rebounding, turnovers and free throw shooting as ways for his squad to be successful. Being victorious in any or all of those categories are especially helpful when playing an undefeated team on its home court like Canfield did Dec. 15 at the Struthers Fieldhouse. Making that match with the Lady Wildcats even more important was that it was Canfield's first All American Conference clash of the season. Well, the Lady Cardinals failed in its quest to beat the Lady Cats in the usually not-so-publicized statistical columns thus they came home from Struthers on the short end of the scoreboard, 54-48.
"We didn't reach any of our goals and although we shot 60 percent from the field in the second half, it was still very difficult to win," grumbled Pavlansky after the loss.
Photos by Emmett King, Town Crier correspondent
Canfields senior Sarah Vrabel puts pressure on a Struthers player last Thursday night. The Wildcats won the contest, 54-48.
It was that burning hot shooting that kept Pavlansky's ladies alive in a contest that started out spectacularly then finished sourly at Struthers. Canfield controlled the game early and built a 14-12 lead after one period. After a brief regrouping session between quarters, the unbeaten Wildcats ran wild and scored the next 17 points. Despite dropping to a double-digit deficit, the Cardinals clawed their way back into contention thanks to a 15-2 rally. Although that colossal charge was not enough for the Cardinals, their coach was quite happy with the effort.
"It was a tough game for us," Pavlansky said, "but it showed we could play at a higher level together. It was very important (to comeback) and very important that we learned much from this game."
What the rest of the All American Conference learned last Thursday is despite only having one senior these young Cardinals will cause a pain in the backsides of their foes each contest. Canfield's junior class is very battled-tested and the junior duo of Sabrina Mangapora and Abby Baker almost brought the Cardinals back against Struthers. Mangapora had another impactful evening scoring 14 points to go along with eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Baker also brought 14 points home with her from Struthers which included two three point goals for the game and five points as Canfield took the lead in the first quarter.
Another reason why the Cardinals are always in the thick of a conference title race is because they endlessly unearth underclass talent. Freshman Rachel Tinkey is a star in the making and she continued her hot start to her rookie season with 11 points and six boards against the Wildcats. Sophomore Crissy Gelonese may not have dented the scoreboard very much last week, but her performance on the defensive end of the floor kept Canfield battling and aided in holding Struthers to two points during the Cardinals' 15-2 midgame run.
"Crissy did a great job on defense," noted Pavlansky.
The entire Cardinal defensive unit did a great job in their previous game against Cardinal Mooney on Dec. 10 holding their opponent to just 34 points in a 55-34 blowout. With a record of 3-2 (0-1) Canfield will play a pair of games before the end of the calendar year. The Cards traveled to Marlington on Dec. 20 then host Austintown Fitch on Dec. 22. While Canfield and Fitch are familiar foes and closely located rivals this year's battle will have a different feel since the Lady Falcons are now a member of the All American. Beating Fitch is always nice for Canfield, but foiling the Falcons to pick up their first conference win of the season would make things extra brighter for the Cardinals this holiday season.