For one half of its basketball game against first place Howland on Jan. 28, it appeared like the Canfield girls were on their way to pulling a huge upset.
Led by junior center Sabrina Mangapora, the Lady Cardinals were going claw to claw against the undefeated and Red Tier leading Lady Tigers. Mangapora made eight points in the first period and it appeared as if the 6-1 frontcourt force would be unstoppable all night. Unfortunately, that is not the way it happened for the Cardinals as Howland laid down the hammer in the second half and was able to come away with a 59-41 victory.
"It was a tough game against Howland," muttered Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky. "We played as hard as we possibly could all night. Just didn't play as well as we needed to in the second half."
Indeed the first half was wonderful for Pavlansky's club until the final few seconds. Canfield held a 24-19 lead with a couple ticks of the clock left before halftime. Then the Tigers received a huge lift when Olivia Nichols nailed a 30-foot shot at the halftime buzzer to pull her team to within two points and swing the all-important momentum in the Tigers' favor.
Still, Canfield had Mangapora on the top of her game so that final buzzer-beater seemed like a slight detour in the Cardinals' bid to beat the heretofore unbeatable. Howland, however, had its own 6-footer in 6-3 senior Taylor Williams and she was able to make Mangapora human in the second half. Williams held Canfield's top kid to just two points after the first quarter while scoring 12 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking three shots herself. With Williams working her magic, Howland switched its defense to a full court press and that caused problems for the Cardinals. Too many mistakes by Canfield allowed Howland to go on a 15-2 run to start the second half and the Cardinals subsequently lost the third period 23-7. A 14-point mountain was too high to climb for Canfield in the fourth quarter.
"We had 23 turnovers for the game and that was the biggest difference," admitted Pavlansky. "We learned in the game that we can be as good as anyone, but we just need to play 32 minutes."
Despite being shut down after her fast start, Mangapora did co-lead the Cardinals in scoring with 10 points. Sarah Vrabel also scored 10 points and had five rebounds. Rachel Tinkey took away nine points, six rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.
Pavlansky' girls will get another shot at the conference king on Feb. 4, this time in Howland.
At least Canfield's week was not a complete loss as it was able to bury Beaver Local on Jan. 19 by a score of 73-26. Mangapora poured it on the Lady Beavers with 26 points and six rebounds. Kayla Barko bombed Beaver with 10 points. Vrabel had eight points and three boards. Abby Baker brought in seven points. Tinkey had another nice all-around game with six points, six rebounds and four assists. Allison Pavlansky had four points and as many rebounds. Other girls who were able to get into the game were Lynnae Whitehead with four points and Kori McMurray, Jamie Giambattista and Erin Risner with two points apiece.
Before the Cardinals climb the bus for Howland they have to take a road trip to Austintown to take on Fitch for the second time this season. That game takes place tonight and the Cards certainly hope the same thing that happened in their first meeting with Fitch three days before Christmas happens over again on Groundhog Day. Canfield clubbed Fitch by 15 points on Dec. 22. Not only will it be an important night in Austintown because the two new Red Tier rivals are battling on the court, but both schools will also be doing their share to win another battle. This Thursday is Fitch's annual "Think Pink" night for cancer awareness. Everyone from the Canfield community is encouraged to where pink and bring their support to Austintown for this worthy cause. That way each team and each fan in the gym will be big winners.