When the pairings for the Division II boys basketball state tournament were announced a couple weeks ago there was a lot of celebrating in Canfield.
The Cardinals were awarded the number two seed in the Warren district, a first round bye and a home game. After handling Hubbard 62-38 on March 1 to win the sectional title, there was even more celebrating.
Unfortunately for Cardinal Nation, all the partying came to a close Thursday. Canfields Cardinals were upended by Cardinal Mooney's Cardinals 60-50 on March 6 in Warren denying Canfield a chance to play archrival Poland for the district championship. According to Canfield head coach Todd Muckleroy, Mooneys mastery of his team was even ghastlier than it looked.
Photos by Cindy DeRose, Town Crier
Canfield Senior Cole Pryjma drives to the hoop as he is surrounded by Mooney defenders during game action March 6 at the District Semi-Final game played at Warren Harding. Mooney came out on top 60-50 in the Battle of the Cardinals.
''It was worse than the score indicated,'' claimed Muckleroy honestly. ''Mooney played a good game and we didn't. They played very physically and we didn't respond.''
About the only time the Cardinals responded was when Cole Pryjma hit a three-pointer a minute into the game to put his team in front 3-2. Mooney then went on a 14-0 run that overlapped into the second period putting those Cardinals ahead 16-3. Hot shooting by Mooney (50 percent), combined with a dreadful performance by Canfield from three-point land (7 for 27), allowed the number three seed to lead by as many as 16 points in the second half. Mooney also held almost a 2 to 1 margin on the glass erasing Canfield's height advantage. Brady Clark led Canfield in scoring with 11 points, but that was not enough to keep neither his high school career nor the career's of his five senior teammates alive. Saying goodbye to Clark, Pryjma, Ryan Kaleel, Andrew Midgley, Jarret Vrabel and Cristian Labra was even harder for Coach Muckleroy to do than watching Mooney celebrate on the court after its victory.
''These six seniors are super individuals and make up a special group,'' Muckleroy said. ''They were freshmen when I started here so they will always be special to me. They are all going to be missed.''
Although a good portion of Muckleroy's nightly rotation played their final game last week, there are noteworthy successors ready to step up. Junior Mike Yourstowsky saw a considerable amount of minutes this winter and along with John French, Matt Desanto and Vince Leone will lead a pack of soon-to-be-seniors.
''We have kids who will be seniors next year who are already great leaders,'' said Muckleroy. ''They will carry the torch passed to them by seniors.''
Sophomore Mason Mangapora also played a lot for the Cardinals and he represents a group of underclassmen that are ready to make a name for themselves on the varsity level as well.
''We have some younger kids who are ready to shine,'' Muckleroy said. ''The freshmen class we have coming up is a very good group.''
It's hard to call a 19-5 season disappointing, but with all of the veteran players Canfield had, one win in the tournament seemed dissatisfying. Perhaps with the returning bunch, the Cardinals playing for a district crown in 2015 will be wearing red and black instead of red and gold.