The Cardinals jarred Salem and can claim a share of the MAC title with a win at Niles on Wednesday.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANFIELD -- The Salem High girls basketball team might be the team to beat in the Metro Athletic Conference next season.
But for now, Canfield and Howland reign supreme.
The Cardinals cruised past Salem 53-31 Saturday and can claim a share of the MAC title with a win at Niles on Wednesday.
"We don't want to jinx ourselves, but we're real excited," Canfield senior Erin Martin said. "We're one step closer."
Canfield has not won the MAC since the 1995-96 season. The Red Dragons are in last place in the league.
"Niles played tough at Salem, so we know they'll be ready to go," Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. "But I would think our chances are pretty good."
Martin -- in her last home game -- led the Cardinals (14-5, 7-2) with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
"It's a little sad," she said. "Canfield has a great community. They've really supported me."
Junior Jill Vertanen added 12 points and six rebounds and senior Nicole Vlajkovich scored 11 points.
Sophomore Alyson Cotter led Salem (11-8, 5-4) with 11 points, five rebounds and two steals. Sophomore Lizzie Jesko added five assists and sophomore Lauren Teal added seven rebounds.
Canfield took a 13-0 lead in the opening five minutes and held Salem to one point in the first quarter. The Quakers cut the deficit to 21-11 at halftime but fell behind big in the third quarter and never recovered.
Salem played solid defensively, holding Canfield to 25 percent shooting in the first half and 35 percent for the game, but struggled against the Cardinals' defense. Salem shot 26 percent from the field.
Canfield has won six of seven and seems to be jelling at the right time.
"We're going into the tournament with a lot of confidence," Pavlansky said. "We're going to try to have something to say down the stretch."
After advancing to the Div. II state finals last year, the Cardinals will play in the Div. I tournament this season.
"Each year is different," Martin said. "We have to play within our strengths, but we'd love to get there again. I don't think we've hit our peak yet."
Salem, which beat Howland earlier in the season, started two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman and has just one senior on the team. The Quakers are what Pavlansky called a "scary team" in the tournament.
"We've gotten some great experience this year," Salem coach Steve Stewart said. "And I know they'll work their tail off this summer. We want to make some noise down the tournament trail and have something positive to build on."