Three consecutive losses to fall to 2-4 have not exactly put the Canfield boys basketball team in the holiday spirit.
The latest lost was on Dec. 23 in Austintown when the Cardinals lost each quarter to host Fitch and succumbed 55-40. Canfield was nipped 14-12 in the first period then was clobbered 41-28 the rest of the way to eventually fall by 15 points. Canfield was curtailed by the hot shooting of Fitch's Will Mahone who manhandled the Cardinals' defense for 25 points. Fellow sharpshooter Dan Chepke battled foul trouble, but still hit for eight points last Friday night. After having a couple days to dissect the film of the Fitch match, second year Canfield head coach Todd Muckleroy realized that his defense did not do enough to slow down that dynamic scoring duo.
"We went into the game knowing we had to stop Mahone and Chepke," said Muckleroy on Monday. "We were pretty successful for a while in the first half, but we couldn't keep it going."
Photos by Emmett King, Town Crier correspondent
Canfield senior Will Yobi and teammate Conner Kesner both eye a rebound in last week’s match against Austintown Fitch. The Cardinals battled hard, but ended up with a 55-40 loss.
In the second quarter, Muckleroy's boys may have been concentrating too hard on defending the Falcons and not enough on playing offense. The Cardinals only scored four points over that eight-minute stretch leaving them in big trouble at halftime.
"The second period was a huge problem for us," admitted Muckleroy. "We had lots of scoring droughts, but in the second quarter we couldn't score at all."
The start of the third quarter proved to be a colossal problem for Canfield too as Fitch energized the vocal pre-holiday weekend crowd with a 10-0 run to take control of the contest. That run put the Cardinals behind by 18 points, which proved to be too big a hole to climb out of.
"Our drought extended into the third quarter," Muckleroy said. "We were struggling to put the ball in the basket. It took us out of our game."
The only Cardinal who seemed on top of his game offensively was Kyle Brown, who ended up being the sole member on his team to top double digits in scoring with 12 points. Matt Yourtowsky scored six points while Connor Kessner and Will Yobi each scored five.
Despite being dominated in the loss, Muckleroy did notice something in the game that he will use to his team's advantage in future weeks. Although Canfield's offense was anemic, its defense was starting to pick up the pace when using a more pressing strategy.
"We did see that our press worked at times in the third period," Muckleroy explained. "That is a change from earlier this year. We can start to press a little more now. That will help us get some steals, create turnovers and score some easy points."
Muckleroy and his coaching staff had a chance to debut that new pressing style in a game this past Tuesday against Boardman. The Coach hopes his kids hone that skill versus the Spartans so they can use it more effectively this Friday when the Cardinals host division rival Howland.
"I'm glad we have that game (against Boardman) before a league game so we can correct some of our problems," said Muckleroy before the Boardman showdown. "We can work on using our press more before we play a Howland offense that can put up some points."