By Greg gulas
It took Canfield 26 minutes and 16 seconds Friday night before it could wrest the lead away from Austintown Fitch.
But once the Cardinals got hold of it however, they refused to give it back.
Andrew Midgley scored 14 points and Jarret Vrabel and Cole Pryjma chipped in with 13 markers each to pace the Cardinals to a 49-42, come-from-behind victory over the Falcons in All-American Conference American Division action.
“We knew they were physical so give them credit because they outmuscled us in the first half,” Canfield coach Todd Muckleroy said. “They pushed us outside and we couldn’t run our offense, forcing us on more than one occasion to throw long passes. That’s not typical of us.”
The Falcons’ (6-9, 2-6) Jessie Driver hit two buckets from beyond the arc to start the game, scoring seven of his 10 points in the opening frame as Austintown Fitch raced to an 11-6 lead just eight minutes into the game.
Pryjma, who had four of his team’s six points in the opening period, felt his team lacked physicality.
“They outmuscled us in the first half so coach [Muckleroy] told us at halftime to be more physical at both ends of the court in the second half,” Pryjma said.
When the Cardinals defeated the Falcons, 57-42 back on Dec. 21, they held their league foe to just 14 first half points en-route to a 31-14 halftime advantage.
By holding Canfield (13-2, 7-1) to just nine second quarter points, the Falcons reversed those numbers as they built a 25-15 margin on the strength of Alex DiFrancesco’s seven points.
“What we did to them in the first half they did to us in the second half. Neither team responded and that was the key,” Falcons coach Brian Beany said. “Their defensive intensity affected us in the second half and we just couldn’t bounce back. We’re a young team and our kids played hard but we’re still learning how to win. Playing two good quarters against a good team like Canfield just won’t get it done.”
A floater by Quincy Higgins midway through the third period gave Austintown Fitch a 29-19 lead, but the Cardinals closed with a 7-1 run of their own to pull to within 30-26 with one period remaining.
Midgley’s bucket at 7:05 of the final frame keyed a 15-6 run by the Cardinals as they pulled to within 31-30.
After a Higgins jumper increased the Falcons lead to 33-30, it was the last lead that they would enjoy.
Four points by Vrabel then helped Canfield run off 10 straight points for a 40-33 margin and the Cardinals never looked back en-route to their second straight victory.
It was their ninth road victory in as many tries.
“We seem to thrive on the road pressure and want to be the one to punch our opponent in the mouth. Tonight, they punched us in the mouth and that was our wake-up call,” Vrabel said.