Two incredible wins over a pair of higher seeds have given the Canfield girls basketball team an unexpected district championship.
Canfield's girls advanced to the Sweet 16 of the Division II state tournament where, unfortunately they lost to state heavyweight Hathaway Brown on March 6 in Barberton.
The road to Barberton was paved with four victories in a row in the Austintown district. The last two wins were upsets of number 1 seed Ravenna, 64-53 on March 1, and number 2 seed West Branch, 42-40 on March 3 in the final.
The Canfield girls basketball won the Div. II district championship on March 3.
Beating West Branch shortly after subduing the best team in the district was a predictably stern task for Canfield. Both teams staged an enormous battle in the first half with the Lady Warriors holding an 18-13 advantage at halftime. Yet in the third period, the Cardinals came out on fire and outscored their adversary 16-8 to take a three-point lead into the fourth quarter. The last period was almost even (West Branch won by one point) and that enabled Canfield to come home with the one basket victory. The Warriors won the two schools' first meeting by two points on Jan. 4, so it was no shock that the district title was also decided by a slim margin. Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky was not surprised either that his girls were up to the challenge.
"What a game Saturday," screamed Pavlansky. "We were confident we could win the district title because we have prepared all year with our schedule. The girls played tougher than they have all year and have lots to be proud of."
One Cardinal who definitely played tough was Sabrina Mangapora. Canfield's leading scorer led the charge once again wowing the Warriors and everyone in attendance with 25 points. Since Sabrina had the scoring column covered it allowed her teammates to take over in other areas. Rachel Tinkey led the team with eight rebounds. Sarah Vrabel handed out six assists. Then there was the defensive play of Abby Baker, Paige Baker and Kayla Barko.
"Abby held (West Branch's) top scorer to four points," exclaimed Pavlansky. "Paige played tenacious defense and Kayla played great defense and set great screens on offense."
As impressive as the win over West Branch was, it may have paled in comparison to Canfield's clubbing of top-seeded Ravenna two nights earlier. Ravenna earned that lofty seeding because it was undefeated heading into the game and was ranked number two in the entire state. At the outset of the game it looked as if the Lady Ravens were indeed unbeatable. Ravenna had a lead after one period, but Canfield was determined not to allow that lead to stand up. The Cardinals, like it would do a couple days later against West Branch, would climb back into the game with some mighty fine shooting. Canfield connected on 20 of 38 shots from the field and even added 18 out of 26 from the foul line. That strong shooting as well as some grittiness gave the Cardinals all they needed to storm back for the upset.
"We were just a tough team," said Pavlansky. "Plus we shot the ball well from the field and the free throw line. Our girls fought every possession and created opportunities for themselves on offense and defense."
The biggest opportunity was created by Mangapora who was pretty much unstoppable to the previously unbeatable Ravens. Sabrina sliced the Ravenna defense for 29 points and she also collected a dozen rebounds. Abby Baker brought home 15 points. Tinkey had eight points, seven rebounds and three assists. Vrabel scored six points to go along with nine boards and seven dimes. All it took was one look at how many girls contributed in the scorebook to see how much of a team effort beating Ravenna was.
"It was (the girls) collective mentality that gave them an opportunity to win the game," explained Pavlansky.