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Narrow loss to Fitch gives Lady Cardinals first league loss

January 16, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

A heartbreaking loss at home to Austintown Fitch has given the Canfield girls basketball team its first conference loss of the year.

The Lady Falcons rolled into Canfield last Saturday and stayed undefeated in the All American Conference's Red Tier with their 65-64 victory. It's not like the Lady Cardinals didn't have their chances to steal a win however.

Superstar senior Sabria Hunter grabbed an errant shot for Fitch and put the ball back in the hoop with 1:11 left in the ballgame. Hunter was also fouled so when she completed her traditional 3-point play the Falcons held a 65-60 lead. Canfield has its own amazing player in Serena Sammarone and the senior guard did all she could to salvage the night for her teammates. Sammarone hit two free throws with less than a minute remaining to make the score 65-62 in favor of Fitch. Then after the visitors failed on two consecutive free tosses, Sammarone hit a bucket to pull the Cardinals to within a point. Canfield did have the ball with eight seconds left with a chance to go ahead, but never got off a shot as time expired. Still, the way his team never quit in the waning moments, made Canfield head coach Matt Reel compliment the girls even in defeat.

"Our team showed a lot of grit coming back from several double-digit deficits," said Reel. "We had a chance in the second half to win at the end."

It was Sammarone who gave Canfield the biggest chance to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. She nailed three three-pointers en route to a 24-point scoring night. Just as awesome was super scorer Gianna Flask who buried six triples and ended the game with 20 points.

"Gianna Flask is one of the better shooters we've had here," said Reel. "She stepped up and made some big shots (against Fitch)."

Canfield was successful on 13 three-point attempts but still came away without a win. If his group continues to shoot that well, Reel feels confident that the W's will happen.

"We shot the ball like we are capable of doing," Reel said. "I hope we learn lessons about how every play counts against really good teams. I know our girls will rebound (from the loss)."

Luckily, Reel's ladies rebound game was against upstart Ashtabula Lakeside this past Wednesday evening. A much tougher outing will take place this weekend when the Cardinals travel to Boardman. The Lady Spartans are 3-0 so far in league action and are 10-3 overall.

There was good news from the Canfield camp prior to that loss to Fitch. Reel's warriors knocked off Warren Harding 47-43 on Jan. 9 in Warren. The Lady Raiders had the advantage for most of the evening and held a 30-25 lead with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter. A 3-pointer by Sammarone cut that deficit to a basket. After Harding went back up by five points, the Cardinals captured all of the momentum thanks to two steals and two subsequent layups by Sammarone. She would lead Canfield with 18 points.

"(Sammarone) has been doing that for four years," said Reel. "She's one of the best competitors I've coached. She wants the ball in her hands and will do whatever it takes to win."

Grace Mangapora was second in scoring with 14 points. The junior guard nailed a humongous three-pointer that helped ignite a 9-0 run for Canfield that put it in front for good.

On Jan. 4, the Cardinals played Louisville at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena. This contest had all the action of an NBA level game too. Canfield outlasted the Lady Leopards 53-51 in overtime in a game that ended quite strangely. After Sammarone started the OT with a go-ahead basket, she was fouled on Canfield's next possession. That began a running clock that never stopped throughout both team's following free throw chances. The buzzer sounded with the Cards at the charity stripe. Sammarone scored 20 points to once again lead the way. Flask followed her with three triples and 12 points. Mangapora had nine points. Regardless of the crazy outcome, Coach Reel was overjoyed his young ladies had the opportunity to be big leaguers for a day.

"The "Q" was an amazing experience," said Reel.



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