Thanks to wins over rivals Fitch and Poland, the Canfield girls basketball team has won the All American Conference American Tier outright.
If you toss in an 80-28 clobbering of Champion, these Canfield champions have now won a sensational 16 games in a row. The Lady Cardinals sit at 18-1 overall for the season and will be the number one seed in their sectional when the post-season tournament commences.
"We've had some great efforts the past few games," wrote Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky in an email.
The conference clinching 49-30 win at arch nemesis Poland on Jan. 31 may have looked good on paper, but it didn't live up to the effort coach Pavlansky was referring to. Canfield's ladies were somewhat sluggish since they were playing their third game in seven days. Canfield uncharacteristically shot just 29 percent from the field. Suspect shooting, however, couldn't stop the Cardinals from keeping the Lady Bulldogs at bay all evening.
"Our girls were tired physically and mentally," said Pavlansky, "but we found a way to win by 19 points."
Rachael Tinkey tamed the Bulldogs with a game-high 19 points. Allison Pavlansky kept her team perfect in the standings with 12 points. With a lot of the starters sagging due to fatigue, Canfield's coach needed to call on the aid of some other girls to polish off Poland.
"Great job by our bench giving us some much-needed energy," Pavlansky said excitedly. "Crissy Gelonese was a real spark."
The win over Canfield's other rival from Austintown was also hard to come by. Despite building a 16-point lead at one juncture, the Cardinals allowed their foes to crawl back to within single digits. Canfield held on for a 63-57 win, but Pavlansky was not as pleased as perhaps he should have been.
"We played well for about 28 minutes, but did not finish the game well," Pavlansky complained (slightly). "The girls understand that they can play better to finish off a good opponent."
It is hard to argue with the way Sabrina Mangapora has played all season. Once again she was hard to stop scoring 16 points while adding 12 rebounds and six assists. Tinkey topped the Cardinals again with 17 points. Paige Baker also hit double-digits with 11 points. Pavlansky pulled down six boards to go with nine points. Kayla Barko beat Fitch with eight points and six rebounds. Lynnae Whitehead only had 2 points, but she dished out six dimes. What Whitehead and her non-starter mates have done since December has extremely aided the Cardinals' win streak.
"Lynnae, Paige, Crissy Gelonese and Jamie Giambattista did a great job off the bench again," Pavlansky mentioned. "They have done a great job all season and a key to our success."
None of those girls Pavlansky alluded to are seniors, but that didn't stop them from helping Canfield clamp down on Champion on Senior Night. As per usual in special games like this, the home team never was in any jeopardy of losing. The Cardinals played like champs from the outset against the visitors from Champion and celebrated the careers of Mangapora, Pavlansky, Barko, Baker and Baker beautifully.
"Senior Night was great because all the seniors could go out on a win," said Pavlansky warmly. "They all scored at least five points also."
Mangapora had a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards. Barko was right behind her with 10 points and four rebounds. Pavlansky scored six points on Senior Night. Both Baker's foiled the Lady Flashes with five points.
Besides those efforts by the twelfth-graders, Tinkey was again terrific with 14 points. Giambattista came off the bench to score 11 points. Ashley Kaleel collected six points. Erin Risner had three rebounds, three assists and four points. Whitehead went for seven assists and four rebounds.
Once again Canfield will be playing three games in a seven day span starting with a trip to Niles on Feb. 7. A win in that game will give the Cardinals an undefeated season inside the conference. Road games at Warren Harding and Lowellville will complete the regular season. On Feb, 18, the top-seeded Cards will start their quest for a Final Four appearance when they play Salem in the sectional opener. A win over the Lady Quakers gets Canfield a rematch with Niles five nights later. That game will be played with the glory of a sectional championship hanging in the balance.