The Canfield Lady Cardinals' sensational sojourn into the Sweet Sixteen of the Division II state tournament came to an end Tuesday night in Barberton.
Three-time defending state champion Hathaway Brown controlled the Cardinals to earn a convincing 52-30 victory in the regional semifinal. That loss may have stopped Canfield's season with a 17-8 record, but didn't stop head coach Pat Pavlansky from gushing about his team's accomplishments.
"I'm extremely proud of the 2011-2012 team," he wrote in an email the morning after the year-ending defeat. "They came further during one season than any other team I can remember."
Pavlansky's girls couldn't make it further in the tournament because, quite frankly, they played one incredibly terrific team in Hathaway Brown. The Shaker Heights area squad's super talent notwithstanding, the Lady Cardinals still had a lot of fight in them Tuesday. Canfield was the same team that defeated both the number one and number two outfits in the district round in Austintown to advance to the regional semis, so battling the Lady Blazers was not frightening to them. Canfield trailed by just five points at halftime despite being in a 4-17 shooting slump that left coach Pavlansky dismayed.
"We didn't make many shots (in the first half)," said the coach disappointedly.
Halfway through the third period Hathaway Brown brought the house and the Cardinals' season down. The Blazers blew past Canfield with a 30-7 run, which included a 15-3 margin to end the third period, to keep its quest to once again defend their state title in sight.
Coach Pavlansky believed that the enormous slate of games his girls had to endure this entire season was a big reason why they made such a nice run in the playoffs.
"Our schedule worked for us," he explained. "(The girls) never put their heads down during the early part of the schedule. They just kept plugging away and believing that they would learn and be better the next game."
One girl who was very special over the past four seasons was Canfield's lone senior Sarah Vrabel. Sarah ended her Canfield career with a four-point effort in the regional semis and her coach dedicated this great season to her after the loss.
"This season was really special for her," said Pavlansky about Vrabel. "This team will miss her."
Fortunately for the Cardinals, Sarah is the only girl they will have to miss next season. This underclass collection of Cardinals should be primed to take another huge tournament journey next winter thanks to their enormous abilities. Juniors Paige Baker, Allison Pavlansky, Abby Baker, Kayla Barko and Kori McMurray will all step into the leadership role left behind by Vrabel. Also returning as a senior will be team leading scorer Sabrina Mangapora who only scored eight points in the season finale, but showed her immense scoring acumen by combining for close to 60 points in Canfield's two upset wins in the district over top-seed Ravenna and number two seed West Branch. While Pavlansky is cognizant of the super supplement of seniors he has waiting in the wings, he was satisfied with just basking in the glory of this tournament for the time being.
"We will think about next season in a about a month," he said shrewdly. "Let's enjoy this one. This makes four straight district Division II titles for us."
With the amount of experienced players returning in 2012-2013 Pavlansky's club may be positioned to capture number five.