By Ryan Buck
Canfield basketball player Abby Baker had a lot on her mind Thursday night.
The senior guard is in the midst of finals week while battling a nasty cold that’s swept through the locker room.
On tap was a return trip to Howland for an All-American Conference American Division rematch, where the Tigers hoped to gain a measure of revenge and spoil Canfield’s run at a league title.
It’s no coincidence that once Baker shook off the lingering fever, sore throat, runny nose and fatigue around the middle of the second quarter, the Cardinals quickly erased a 10-point deficit en route to a 56-37 victory.
“I couldn’t breathe at the beginning and then my legs were tired,” said Baker who scored 14 points. “It’s just killer.”
The Tigers (8-7, 3-4) led 19-9 after a strong opening quarter, led by Gabby Cvengros’ 10 points, half of her total output.
The Cardinals (13-1, 6-0) had no answer for her in the first eight minutes.
“Tonight, she wanted the ball, we got it to her and she scored,” Howland coach John Diehl said. “She ran the floor well and got a couple easy lay-ups. That might be her best game of the year.”
With four minutes gone in the second, Rachel Tinkey’s basket started the deciding 13-0 run to put Canfield ahead for good.
Paige Baker came off the bench to knock down two three-pointers to keep it going.
Setting up along the left wing, Abby Baker knocked down the second of her four three-pointers with 1:20 left in the half, giving Canfield a 22-19 lead. She hit another with six seconds left to put the Cardinals up five at the break.
Defensively, Canfield held Howland to one field goal and two points in the second quarter.
“It’s more of a, ‘Hey, if we just keep getting stops, we’re eventually going to make these shots,’” Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. “We know we’re good shooters.
“They just kept doing the right thing and finally some shots started to fall. Then they’ve got to come out and guard you, then Sabrina’s [Mangapora] open inside and we can get some offensive rebound baskets.”
Mangapora, Canfield’s standout forward, found some breathing room in the second half, scoring 11 of her 13 points once the Howland defense was forced to stop double-teaming her in order to send another defender at Baker.
“We’re a pretty good tag team,” Baker said.
With a sweep of rival Howland in the rearview mirror, Baker and the Cardinals can focus on getting healthy and healed up for the season’s stretch run.