Coming off a 13-point loss to Uniontown Lake to start the season, the Canfield boys basketball team was looking for a nice bounce-back effort in its second game of the season.
That important rebound performance happened on Dec. 7 when the Cardinals coasted to a 66-50 win on the road at Champion. Although that win evened Canfield's record at 1-1, its head coach was not completely satisfied.
"I'm happy we won," said Canfield's Todd Muckleroy the day after the win, "but we still could have been a little more dominant."
At the outset of last Friday's fight it seemed as if the Flashes were going to be the team that would dominate. Five three-pointers by the home team and poor shooting by the Cardinals put Champion ahead early. That combination also gave coach Muckleroy flashbacks to how well the Flashes played against his outfit a year ago.
"Champion gave us problems last year," said the coach. "We knew they'd be scrappy."
Thankfully, Muckleroy has a scrappy squad as well. The Cardinals climbed back into the game and were able to forge ahead due to some clutch shooting. By the time halftime rolled around it was Canfield winning by 15 points.
"We started making shots," explained Muckleroy when asked about the turnaround. "We made some plays then put the press on them."
Applying the pressure offensively for the Cardinals was senior Marco Delorenzo who led all scorers with 17 points. Junior Cole Pryjma put in 10 points for the Cardinals.
That same duo was able to top double-figures in scoring in the opener as well, but as a whole the Cardinals failed to find the same type of success they would later have in Champion. Lake locked out the Cardinals 65-52 in front of a disappointed home crowd in Canfield's gym. Despite receiving 14 points from Delorenzo, 12 points from Pryjma and 11 from junior Andrew Midgley, the Cardinals were relatively cold from the field.
"We couldn't hit our shots," said Muckleroy. "We were only 28 percent shooting."
Even with that horrible shooting mark, Canfield was still hanging around its Division I counterpart midway through the fourth quarter. Coach Muckleroy saw that as a silver lining.
"We were down six, but had some costly turnovers at the end," he lamented. "Still the margin of victory (for Lake) was only 13. It could have been a different game."
One area where the Cardinals came up winners was in the rebounding department. Canfield outrebounded its larger foe by 21-12. While that total was terrific, the unnecessary turnovers at crunch time as well as a bunch of fumbles at Champion leaves Canfield with some things to work on in the coming weeks.
"We can get better, especially with the turnovers," Muckleroy admitted. "We're going to play some tough schools coming up so we must play well."
Two of those tough schools the coach was alluding to are West Branch and Struthers who Canfield plays this week. The showdown at Struthers on Friday, Dec. 14 opens All American Red Tier play for the two schools. The home game on Tuesday, Dec. 11 with the Warriors may not be special in the standings, but it is in the eyes of Muckleroy and his boys.
"It's a big game for us," Muckleroy insisted. "I went to West Branch and although I love it here in Canfield, I still have a lot of ties to Beloit. Our guys want this game and winning it would mean a lot to me too. This will be a great test for us."