By Joe Catullo Jr.
Pressured by a tough defensive effort throughout by Boardman, the Canfield High girls basketball team took a risk with 30 seconds remaining in Saturday’s game.
“If they want to pressure us, we have a safety play,” Canfield coach Patrick Pavlansky said. “You have to be willing to take chances to score against their pressure.”
Leading by two points, the Cardinals inbounded underneath Boardman’s hoop. While Canfield knew what it wanted to do, the Spartans were confused and double-teamed one of the Cardinals.
Lynnae Whitehead spurted from the flock near the free throw line. She received the pass just beyond halfcourt. Nobody was near her.
“I take full blame for that,” Boardman coach Jeff Hammerton said. “I wasn’t clear on my instructions to the girls, and we had a little bit of a confusion. I knew that they were going to go deep, especially with how the format came.”
Whitehead made the layup and Ashley Kaleel later made the team’s only two free throws with 11 seconds left to seal a 36-32 victory.
The Cardinals (7-4) were down to just five players during that time after Emily Ellis fouled out. All six girls that played are underclassmen. Jamie Giambattista and Crissy Gelonese, the lone seniors, were out due to injuries.
“They care, and they just play hard,” Pavlansky said. “They’re fun kids. There’s an opportunity to learn a lot. It was a typical Canfield-Boardman game where we’re just slugging it out.”
The Cardinals struggled to find anything early on, scoring two points and tallying eight turnovers in the first quarter. Erin Risner helped change that, scoring half of the team’s 16-point second quarter.
“They started breaking our press a little bit and started getting easy opportunities,” Hammerton said. “The other thing is when they’d miss, they had two or three more opportunities every time down. In a game where points are at a premium, a four-point possession really hurts you.”
Risner finished with a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds.
“Erin doesn’t know how good she is yet,” Pavlansky said. “She’s a very good player, and she can elevate on her shot just about better than anybody we put out there.”
Ellis added eight points and Rachel Tinkey scored two points and collected a game-high nine rebounds. Although Tinkey did not have a typical 20-point game, her presence created space for Risner.
“Our goal was to not let Tinkey go off against us,” Hammerton said. “I put Anna Patoray, who’s my best defensive player, on her. When we do that, we know that other girls are going to get open looks. Our theory is we don’t want to get beat by the other team’s best player.”
Kelly Tomsanyi led Boardman (3-6) with 10 points while Jenna Kuczek scored eight. The Spartans shot 21 percent from the floor and made the game’s lone 3-pointer on 15 attempts.
“If you told me we held Canfield to 36 points, I’d tell you that we won the game,” Hammerton said. “Against Canfield, you can’t let them hang around and expect to win.”