The amazing 24-game winning streak concocted by the Canfield girls basketball team came to an unfortunate end last Friday night.
Making the snapping of that streak even sadder was the fact that it came just three steps away from a Division II state championship. For the second consecutive season, Canfield's girls were outdueled by Hathaway Brown in the regional finals denying them a chance at a Final Four appearance. This year, Brown beat the Lady Birds 49-34 in the regional title tilt played March 8 in Barberton.
"Hathaway is an outstanding team," Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky said somberly after the loss. "That is why they are four-time defending state champ."
Photo by Cindy DeRose, Town Crier correspondent
The Canfield Cardinals girls basketball team celebrate their district championship win against West Branch, 40-37 on March 2. The team had a 24-game winning streak this season with only two losses. The team includes, on the floor, from left, Sabrina Mangapora, Allison Pavlansky, Abby Baker, ball girl Jenna¬†Hlaudy, Paige Baker and Kayla Barko; in back, head coach Pat Pavlansky, Emily Ellis, Lynnae Whitehead, Savannah Barko, assistant coach Matt Reel, Ashley Kaleel, Jamie Giambattista, Erin Risner, Crissy Gelonese, Rachel Tinkey.
For one half it seemed like the Lady Cardinals were in great position to up their winning role to 25 in a row. Canfield was brilliant versus the Lady Blazers over the first 16 minutes, trailing just 18-16 at halftime. One thing the Cardinals haven't done seemingly all season is commit costly turnovers, but a pair of fumbles early in the third period fueled a mini Blazer run. Down seven, Canfield's sensational senior Sabrina Mangapora started a Cardinal comeback. She poured in a three-pointer to cut her team's deficit to four, then Kayla Barko recorded a traditional three-pointer when she grabbed a missed shot, was fouled then hit her charity toss. Alas, 23-22 was as close as the local ladies could get as Hathaway put away Canfield 26-12 the rest of the way.
"We liked the way we played in the first half, but the turnovers (did us in) to open the second half," Pavlansky said.
Not only did getting bumped off by the Blazers again sting the Canfield family, but also the realization that a fabulous group of five seniors played their final game last Friday night was even more devastating. These Canfield seniors tied for the most wins in a season in school history with 26 and set the record with their 24 game win span. That quintet includes Barko, who brought home seven points from Barberton, Allison Pavlansky who scored 6 points in the regional final and was a force all year inside and outside the paint, and Paige and Abby Baker who both constantly contributed to Canfield's dynamic season. Of course, the leader of this remarkable collection of Redbirds was four-year starter Mangapora. Sabrina topped Canfield in scoring against Hathaway Brown with 14 points, but that game was just a miniscule example of what she did since stepping on the court in Canfield four years ago. The recently named player of the year was the No. 1 scorer and rebounder for the Cardinals and was just as adept at dishing out an assist, blocking a shot or securing a steal. Not only was Mangapora amazing on the floor, but she was equally outstanding away from the team too.
"(All the seniors) left behind a great legacy," Pavlansky said proudly.
One of the luxuries of blowing out opponents as often as Canfield did this year was that coach Pavlansky was able to get a lot of younger girls some valuable varsity minutes. Many of those girls will be expected to try to pick up the slack left by the departing seniors. Next season's senior class should be led by Crissy Gelonese and Jamie Giambattista. Junior-to-be Rachel Tinkey should be the next in a long line of four-year starters who will eventually dominate the All American Conference. Also returning in 2013-2014 should be underclassmen Erin Risner, Lynnae Whitehead, Emil Ellis, Savannah Barko and Ashley Kaleel who all left their marks at one time or another this winter.
Without a doubt next season's Canfield roster will be almost as awesome as this year's. That's why another shot at redemption against Hathaway Brown should be a definite possibility.