CANFIELD — In all the years that Canfield High coach John Cullen has coached the Cardinals’ basketball team, he’s never had a team quite like this group.
After 16 games all five Canfield starters are averaging double figures in scoring for the season.
“I’ve never had five average doubles before,” Cullen said. “I’ve had four do that in a year but never five.”
The Cardinals’ starters were nearly on their marks Tuesday night as three of the five — Mike Podolsky (18.2 ppg), Justin Vrabel (10.5 ppg) and Joe Hoelzel (13.5 ppg) — combined for 44 points in an impressive 65-41 non-conference win over neighboring Austintown Fitch.
Dan Campolito (10.1 ppg) scored 9 points while Gene Wollet (10.4 ppg) had four points and eight rebounds.
“It was a pretty balanced effort by us tonight,” Cullen said. “Our goal was to take the shots we wanted and not the ones Fitch wanted us to take.
“I thought we shot the ball pretty well, passed the ball pretty well and defensively we did a good job.”
Canfield (14-2) and seeded fifth in the upcoming Division I district tournament at Canton, showed that balance right from the start against the Falcons (1-17).
Campolito and Podolsky each hit three-pointers on their first shots to give the Cardinals a 6-3 lead and Canfield never looked back.
By the end of the first quarter, Canfield had grabbed a 19-9 lead when Vrabel hit a short jumper.
By the end of the first quarter four of the five starters had tallies in the scoring column.
Vrabel said that he isn’t surprised by Canfield’s five-pronged attack.
“It’s amazing how this team has grown together throughout the season,” said Vrabel, who is known as ‘Psycho-V’ by his teammates and the Canfield student section. “We know we have a balanced attack.
“We know that any one of our guys could put up 20 [points] a night if they wanted but we are such an unselfish team that shares the ball and that’s how we got 15, 15 and 14 tonight.”
Vrabel said his teammates all know what shots they need to take to be most effective and that is where they try to get the basketball to those players in the game.
“At times this summer all the guys showed they could score,” Cullen said. “I knew Michael [Podolsky] and Justin [Vrabel] could do it and Hoelzel has just improved so much and is a great finisher now.
“Gene [Wollet] has also gotten more confident shooting and I thought Danny [Campolito] would be able to score at a good clip.”
While Canfield worked well offensively, Fitch tried valiantly to stay with the Cardinals.
The Falcons (3-13) are playing with several underclassmen as coach Jason Baker tries to rebuild a team that has lost three starters to injuries and defections.
DeAndre Richardson and Juhwaun Pete led the Falcons with 14 and nine points and tried to keep Fitch within striking distance in the third quarter.
Canfield held a 34-15 lead at halftime, but Fitch started the third quarter on a 9-2 run that cut the Cards lead to 36-24.
The Cardinals pushed the lead out to 20 points 45-25 minutes later but Fitch rallied again close the quarter on a 6-0 run to trail by 14 entering the final period.