The Bulldogs were held without a field goal in the first half and still won.
By GARY HOUSTEAU
CANFIELD -- It's not often that you see a high-caliber high school basketball team held without a field goal in the first half, let alone have that same team turn it around completely in the second half to gain the victory.
But that was the scenario Friday at Canfield.
Poland, which trailed 17-6 at the half, with all six of its points coming from the free throw line, rallied behind an aggressive defense in the second half to steal a Metro Athletic Conference victory from the Cardinals, 38-31.
"I'm drained, I'm flat out drained," said Poland coach Ken Grisdale from a euphoric Bulldog locker room. "I think our kids are drained. They're a little younger so they have that energy right now, but we dug deep because we sure didn't play a very pretty offensive game."
Shut out first quarter: Poland, which trailed 14-0 before Chad Fender's two free throws with 5:02 remaining in the second quarter finally got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard, found itself in a big hole after shooting 0 of 18 from the floor in the first half.
"We figured out what we had to do defensively to hold their offense down, and throughout the game we did a pretty good job of that," said Canfield coach John Cullen. "We played a defense we've never played before against them and they couldn't have prepared for that defense.
"But to their credit I thought they did a nice job of adjusting to that in the second half."
Despite their offensive futility in the first half, the Bulldogs were able to start anew after the intermission.
First field goal: David McGarry got the team's first goal of the game on a lay-in basket with 7:37 remaining in the third period, before Poland's defense began to assert itself.
Jamie Dunn scored only seconds after McGarry's bucket off of a defensive steal to immediately cut Canfield's lead to 17-10.
"We told them to believe," Grisdale said about his talk to the team at halftime. "We were down by 16 here in the fourth quarter last year and we outscored them 35-6 on this court. We told them to believe. We're not going to quit, but we had to believe that we could find something to hang our hat on and we we're struggling.
"We finally got some penetration, had some guys make a few baskets. Our press changed the tide of the game, but you've got to believe, you've got to believe you can always come back."
Poland finally tied the score at 29 on a McGarry free throw.
"The fact of the matter is they made us play fast, they got us playing the rat game, which is the way they like to play and they're good at it," said Cullen, whose team turned the ball over 25 times. "We didn't do a very good job of handling it. You have to have a lot of poise in that situation and we didn't have any poise."
Took the lead: The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game at 32-29 when Fender scored off of a steal and a lay-in, where he was fouled for a three-point play, with 3:49 left in the game. Behind McGarry's nine fourth-quarter points, Poland out-scored the Cardinals 12-2 in the final frame.
"I just knew that I had to shoot," McGarry said. "I've been getting great passes from all of my team. They were just giving me the ball. The first half I couldn't hit; the second half I just lit it up."
McGarry and Fender each tossed in 11 points to lead their team in scoring, while Chase Booms also had 11 for the Cardinals. Booms also had a game-high seven rebounds.