Since losing for a second time to rival Austintown Fitch Jan. 13, the Canfield girls basketball team caught fire.
Canfield won three games in a row inside the All American Conference over Howland, Niles and Poland to stay near the top of the league standings. A 51-36 setback at Struthers Saturday eliminated the Lady Cardinals from league championship contention. The All American Conference now comes down to a contest between Struthers and Fitch.
"(Struthers) really came out and showed they deserve a shot for the league title when they play Fitch," said coach Pat Pavlansky. "We know we are a better team than we showed, but Struthers played so much stronger physically and mentally."
Even though the Lady Wildcats hit the first shot of the game and seemed to be in control from that bucket, the Cardinals were able to keep it close. Canfield was only trailing by one point in the second quarter when the Wildcats went on a run to take a 26-19 lead at halftime. Cold shooting by the Cardinals cut into their ability to take a lead. Canfield's kids cut their deficit to just 5 points in the final period, but a 10-0 run by the Cats kept the Cards at bay. Struthers also subdued super Canfield scorer Rachael Tinkey holding her to 11 points. That total would be one-third of the output Tinkey stung Struthers with in the schools' first showdown Dec. 12 when Struthers won 60-57.
Tinkey had no trouble scoring in any of the three wins the team had before slipping up against Struthers. The junior jammed home 43 points combined including a team-high 20 point effort in the Cardinals' 57-22 rout of the Lady Red Dragons on Jan. 25. Thanks in part to Tinkey's terrific night, Canfield was able to nail Niles down with a 19-0 run early in the contest. The destroyed Dragons were never able to deliver a comeback as Canfield's defense dominated from that point on.
Fellow junior Erin Risner was the scoring hero against arch nemesis Poland Jan. 30 when she had 16 points and five rebounds. Canfield would pummel Poland for a second time this season 55-24. Ashley Kaleel would score a dozen points in the win. Tinkey totaled 9 points.
With a league crown now out of reach, the Lady Cards, with 11-6 overall, will take a break from conference play for most of the rest of the regular season. Featured games in February are against United, Warren Harding, Lakeview and Ravenna. The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Ravens are two of the top area schools in Division II and a pair that should pose problems for their opponents should they meet in the state tournament.