After beating Howland 56-37 on Jan. 17 to stay undefeated in its conference, the task for the rest of this regular season became clearer for the Canfield girls basketball team.
A sweep of their next two conference clashes with Struthers on Jan. 19 and Fitch on Jan. 24 would make the Lady Cardinals champions of the All American Conference's American Tier. If how the Canfield ladies treated the Lady Wildcats last Saturday afternoon was any indication, then the Lady Falcons better fear what's in store for them. Canfield plastered the visitors from Struthers 63-34 to pick up its 12th straight victory and inch one step closer to the conference crown.
Although the game ended with a lopsided score it wasn't amazingly easy for the Cardinals in the first half. The visitors from Struthers stayed close to their hosts for 16 minutes with Canfield only holding a three-point lead at intermission. Then the Wildcats went silent hitting just one out of 13 shots in the third period. In fact, the entire second half was scary for Struthers as it went 3-for-27 from the field. That futility allowed the Cardinals to climb out to a 14-2 run that sent the 'Cats crawling out of Canfield. On Saturday, as has been the case for most of this season, Canfield's defense was in control.
"The game went well," said a satisfied Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky Saturday night. "Another great defensive effort. It has been the key to our season so far."
A direct result of a demolishing defense is plenty of rebound opportunities and that was evident last Saturday afternoon. Canfield out-rebounded its opponent 28-14 led by Rachel Tinkey's nine boards. The sophomore also subdued Struthers with 13 points and seven assists. Sabrina Mangapora whipped the Wildcats for 18 points and six boards. Abby Baker was the third Cardinal in double-digits with 11 points. Allie Pavlansky was consistent with six points and just as many rebounds and assists. Kayla Barko had six points, four rebounds and three dimes. Lynnae Whitehead only scored one bucket, but it was a big one because it spearheaded her team's 14-2 run. Whitehead was one of four non-starters to score in last Saturday's showdown with Struthers solidifying what coach Pavlansky has said all year about his total roster.
"We have a huge bench," he noted. "We have a lot of girls here who work hard."
In Canfield's clobbering of Howland a couple nights earlier it was Abby Baker who led the way. Despite playing through a nasty cold, Baker made the Lady Tigers sick connecting on four three-pointers en route to a team-high 14 points. The Cardinals would need each one of Baker's threes because they actually fell behind the frisky Tigers by 10 points at one point. With the Howland home crowd buzzing, Canfield needed a steading force and that came halfway through the second quarter by way of Tinkey. The super sophomore sunk a basket to start a 13-0 Canfield run that would put her team ahead at halftime. The rest of the way it was predictable perfect sailing for the Lady Cards. Besides Baker's brilliance, two other Canfield kids climbed above 10 points. Mangapora, who was certainly the focal point of Howland's defensive efforts, picked up a hard-earned 13 points. She also secured 17 rebounds. Tinkey took home 10 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Pavlansky played well with eight points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Paige Baker scored eight points as well. Coach Pavlansky also cited Crissy Gelonese for playing solidly off the bench and was overly pleased with his entire team's performance.
"We played with great intensity," said the coach.
That same intensity will be needed again when Pavlansky's club matches up with the Lady Falcons. Canfield's girls already won this season at Fitch a week before Christmas, but that five-point triumph was probably one of the toughest one's Pavlansky's squad picked up all campaign. With a 13-3 record and just one loss in the league, the Falcons are certainly no pushover, plus they should have the thought of revenge on their minds following that mid-December defeat. Fitch also features possibly the best scorer in the American Tier in junior Megan Sefcik. Slowing down Sefcik and keeping turnovers to a minimum will be the two top tasks for Canfield on Thursday.
"Hopefully we will play well," he said succinctly. "Hope not to change too much because we would like to win again. Sefcik is an outstanding player so we will have to limit the number of easy baskets for her. It will take a collective effort to stop her."
A lot like the collective defensive effort Pavlansky's ladies have been exhibiting throughout their 12-game winning streak.