At this juncture of the season, it is vital for basketball teams to be playing at the top of their games.
The postseason tournament is quickly approaching so teams who are getting hot have a better chance of not being kept out in the cold when the Final Four tips off. That is certainly not a problem in Canfield.
In a battle of number one tournament bracket seeds, the Lady Cardinals defueled the Lady Rockets of Lowellville, 67-25 on Wednesday, Feb. 13 to win their 19th consecutive game. Canfield's ladies finished the regular season with a record of 21-1 and are primed to make a huge push in the Division II party. Still, the way the Cardinals lambasted 19-3 Lowellville on its home floor made a huge impression on everyone in attendance.
"Lowellville is a very good team and we were surprised by the margin," said Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky echoing the sentiments of a lot of people who viewed the game. "We played well and hope to continue (playing like) that in the tournament."
If Pavlansky's girls play as well in the tournament as they did in handing the Rockets just their third home loss in the past five seasons, then the All American Conference championship may not be the only one the Cardinals capture this season. Canfield shot 45 percent from the field last Wednesday night, which helped the team jump out to an alarming 22-7 first period lead. That advantage would grow to 39-15 at halftime putting an unceremoniously early end to an otherwise highly anticipated matchup.
Lowellville never reached double-digits in any quarter, was held way below its season scoring average and committed 21 turnovers. Of course, killer defense from the Cardinals is something that has become rather common this season.
"We have played great defense the whole year only giving up an average of 35 points per game over 22 games," bragged Pavlansky. "Our girls are committed to protecting the hoop and have worked hard (at defense)."
Meanwhile, Canfield's offense has not been too shabby either since the start of the season. Leading scorer Sabrina Mangapora was up to her old tricks in Lowellville racking up 28 points against the Rockets and grabbing a dozen rebounds. Rachael Tinkey tossed in three of her team's three-pointers en route to a 15-point night. For the game Canfield was 6-13 from behind the arc. Paige Baker helped bump off the Rockets with nine points. The Cardinals also held a 38-21 rebounding advantage over their hosts with Tinkey and Erin Risner aiding Mangapora with six boards apiece.
The blowout win not only kept the Cardinals on fire, but it also allowed the girls to set a school record.
"This team has the most regular season victories ever by a Canfield basketball team," said an elated Pavlansky.
All of those 21 wins are fantastic, but let's face it, that total will seem irrelevant if the Lady Cards can't cut it in March. Canfield's quest for a state championship commences on Monday, Feb. 18 against Salem at Austintown Fitch. With almost a full week off between games for Pavlansky's club, the coach will depend on the rigors of the regular season and some light exercise to remain in playing shape.
"We keep fresh by stretching and walking a lot during the end of the season so that are legs are fresh for the tournament," explained the bench boss.
If that freshness leads to a win over the rival Lady Quakers then Canfield will meet another old friend Niles five days later. With the spectacular way Canfield's girls are balling both on offense and defense, it seems like both Salem and Niles are destined to become just two more notches in the Cards' sensational winning streak.