If you watch Canfield basketball player Sabrina Mangapora play a game it doesn't take long to realize she is a special athlete.
She may stand 6 feet, 1 inche, but she is every bit agile as she is big and strong. The junior has already scored 989 points in her career and this season she showed her versatility by averaging 21 points and nine rebounds per game. Mangapora's most magic moments of the season, however, may have come in the Division II state district semifinals and finals when she almost single-handedly put the Lady Cardinals into the Sweet Sixteen. Sabrina slashed No. 1 seed Ravenna in the semis with 25 points then came back a couple days later to waylay No. 2 seed West Branch with 29 points. For those two tremendous outputs and for her incredible play all winter, Mangapora was named the Division II Northeast Ohio Inland Player of the Year.
"(Winning the award) shows that with hard work you get rewarded," Sabrina said recently during a chat on the phone. "I am so happy (to win it)."
Mangapora was less than thrilled when her team was bumped by defending state champion Hathaway Brown in the regional round of the tournament earlier this month, but after reflecting on it for a few days she seemed practical.
"A lot of people were upset, but look how far we went," said Mangapora philosophically. "I was impressed."
It is easy to get impressed when watching Mangapora mangle other team's defenses on the court. Canfield girls head coach Pat Pavlansky has had the pleasure of watching Mangapora light up opponents for three years now and is never short on superlatives when talking about Sabrina's work ethic.
"Sabrina is a special player because she works so hard to be as good as she is," said Pavlansky proudly. "I am confident that she will be a better player next year because she will work even harder to help this team get better."
No doubt Mangapora is all about her team. Talk to her for five minutes and it is easily detectable that she is no diva. It takes this jovial junior only a few seconds to thank the girls who play around her for aiding her in earning the player of the year award.
"I get a lot of help from my teammates," Mangapora said unselfishly. "All of their support helped me in the big games."
Just because Sabrina is queen in 2011-2012 it doesn't mean that she will enter next season unprepared to maintain her lofty level of play. Mangapora realizes that there are areas of her game that she will always attempt to become better.
"I will work on shooting a lot in practice," Mangapora explained.
Since Sabrina will be a senior next season she will also have to work on assuming more of a leadership role on the Cardinals. That doesn't seem like it will be a problem for her.
"I will try to get everyone involved over the summer," said Sabrina. "Sarah (Vrabel) was a great senior (this year) and I learned a lot from her."
Learning has never been a problem for this levelheaded Cardinal. Although all of her accomplishments on the basketball floor are noteworthy, what Mangapora does in the classroom is equally impressive. Currently, Sabrina is carrying all A's on her report card and is just as happy with those marks as the ones she has left on the voters for player of the year.
"This year has been great for me in school," Sabrina shouted proudly.
A perfect grade point average, a 20-plus point per game scoring average, a landmark season for her team and the player of the year award. It sounds as if Sabrina has all an eleventh-grader could possibly need, but she is determined to get more.
"I would like to repeat as player of the year (next year)," she said confidently. "That is my goal. I also think we have a good chance of meeting Hathaway Brown again (in the Sweet Sixteen)."
This entire Division II district better take that quote as a warning because it is very wise never to doubt anything that Sabrina Mangapora sets her mind on accomplishing.