Great defense has helped propel the Canfield girls basketball team into the third round of the Division II state basketball tournament.
Canfield has held each of its first two opponents in the sectional under 30 points so it has been easy pickings so far in the postseason playoffs. The Cardinals won the pair of games played in Austintown, sliding past Streetsboro 36-27 on Feb. 22 then smashing Southeast, 61-29 three days later. The reward for that sectional subduing of Southeast is a showdown with undefeated and number one-seeded Ravenna on March 1.
"Ravenna is the number two team in the state and is 22-0," announced Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky. "They are awfully good."
Coach Pavlansky's girls have been pretty good themselves since the tournament began last week because they have kept their opponents away from the basket. The Cardinals' defense needed to be sharp in their first game since its offense went south. The usually proficient Canfield "O" could only connect on 13-52 shots against Streetsboro and, although its defense played well enough for this game to be a complete laugher, it was Streetsboro who almost had the last laugh. The Cardinals flew out to a 13-4 lead after one period, but could not shake Streetsboro all game. Canfield's lead was only seven points at halftime and remained that way midway through the fourth period. Being able to hold off their opponent's challenge in that final frame made up for an otherwise uninspiring tournament effort.
"It was a good game for us because we were able to play tough in a close fourth quarter," explained an otherwise disappointed Pavlansky the morning after the tourney triumph. "Hopefully we can shoot the ball better (in future tournament games)."
Shooting the ball the best for Canfield last Wednesday night was Sabrina Mangapora who poured in 19 points to go along with 15 rebounds and five steals. Abby Baker, Allison Pavlansky and Kayla Barko all scored four points. Rachel Tinkey grabbed eight rebounds.
As unsatisfied as coach Pavlansky sounded after the win over Streetsboro he was much more upbeat after the sectional final sailing past Southeast Lady Pirates. The reason behind that happiness was a lot of talking on the court by his players.
"We played well Saturday because our girls communicated very well," said the coach. "Every kid talked more out there then they normally do. If we communicate offensively and defensively everything else will fall into place."
Allison Pavlansky was in the right place at the right time in the first quarter as she sunk half of her team's four first quarter three-pointers. Those triples allowed the Cardinals to build a 17-6 lead after eight minutes. That lead would expand to an insurmountable 14 points at halftime thanks to Mangapora who put six straight baskets before the intermission. Mangapora finished the afternoon with a game-high 22 points. Pavlansky was next up with 10 points. Sarah Vrabel had seven points and the same amount of rebounds. Paige Baker and Tinkey each scored six points with Tinkey also totaling seven assists and four steals. Anna Luongo had five rebounds and Emily Ellis and Jamie Giambattista each got into the scorebook with two points.
Pavlansky's kids will need the entire roster to once again step up this Thursday if they are to upset one of the top teams in Ohio. Ravenna is 22-0 because its lineup is stacked and talented. Leading the way for the Lady Ravens are seniors DiAndra Gibson and Malorie Gibson. Even though, like Forrest Gump and Bubba they are not relations, these two play like a twin sister act and are hard to stop.
"(Ravenna) has a girl with a full ride to Akron (DiAndra) and many other very good players," said Pavlansky. "Hopefully our young team will be up for the challenge."
The Cards enter this contest with 15 wins of their own so they are not shy about beating the best. As long as the Cardinals can keep the chatter up as much as they did in the sectional final then anything is possible in round three.
"Hopefully this communication will continue because we'll need it (against Ravenna)," Pavlansky declared.
Canfield's clash with Ravenna again takes place at Austintown Fitch and begins at 7:30 p.m.