By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANFIELD -- Let's not mince words.
There was one way to describe Poland High girls basketball coach Jamie Dunn's feelings about his team's 54-49 loss to Canfield Wednesday night.
Apparently, "disappointing" wasn't strong enough.
"Disappointing, or pathetic?" Dunn said. "We played poorly and ultimately, the responsibility lies with me. I have to correct what went wrong.
"And it will be corrected."
An awful lot went wrong for Poland (12-3, 5-2 Metro Athletic Conference), which is tied with Canfield and Howland -- which lost to Salem Wednesday night -- atop the MAC standings.
Turnovers: Poland committed 13 fourth quarter turnovers -- on six possessions in a row at one point. The Bulldogs scored just three points in a critical 61/2 minute span in the final quarter. Poland turned the ball over 33 times for the game.
"We had chance after chance," Dunn said. "We just kept turning it over and it snowballed downhill."
The win couldn't have come at a better time for the Cardinals (12-5, 5-2), who played poorly in a loss to Howland last Saturday, and lost to Poland 52-46 earlier in the season.
"The way we played reminded me of last year," said Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky, whose team advanced to the Division II state final last March. "We played hard even when things weren't going right. When we're playing that way, we're tough to beat."
The Cardinals trailed 44-41 with 6:47 remaining when things began to turn around. Kelly Williams hit a jumper to cut it to one, and Canfield forced six straight Poland turnovers, but failed to score off any of them.
Erin Martin scored with 3:30 to go, giving Canfield its first lead of the quarter, but Kristy Gaudiose answered with a sideline 3-pointer to put Poland ahead 47-45.
Jill Vertanen then scored five of Canfield's next seven points, and Poland committed seven turnovers over the next two minutes to fall behind 52-47.
Williams seals it: Williams hit two free throws to seal the game with 25 seconds remaining.
"There's no other game like the Poland game," said Williams, who had eight points and a career-high nine steals. "I think the adrenaline was really pumping for all of us. We really pulled together and that's what got us as far as we did last year."
Martin finished with 15 points and six rebounds for Canfield. Vertanen scored 13 points and Nicole Vlajkovich added 12.
Before the game, Pavlansky asked senior Jessica Gifford, who had started 16 straight games, to come off the bench to help give Canfield depth. Gifford agreed -- helping to give the Cardinals something Pavlansky said they've lacked much of the season: leadership.
"[Gifford] was wonderful tonight," Pavlansky said. "Our seniors became better leaders tonight than they've been all season."
Gaudiose gets 19: Gaudiose led Poland with 19 points and five rebounds. Taryn Carlson and Steffi Graf each scored eight points.
Julie Gallo, who torched Canfield for 22 points in the first meeting, was held to eight points and six rebounds.
"The team that won deserved to win," Dunn said. "But like I told my players, this game is over and we can't dwell on it. We can't get into a pity party."