By Steve Wilaj
They could have folded.
Down 12-0 to Hickory at the 2:53 mark of the first quarter, the Canfield High girls basketball team – having already committed six turnovers – couldn’t do anything right.
But then, as Canfield’s Sabrina Mangapora put it, the Cardinals simply “made up their minds.”
“I think we really just dug in as a team and were like, ‘You know what? This game is in our hands whether or not we want to win,’” Mangapora said.
Their decision? They did want to win, rallying to defeat Hickory, 40-30, in Monday’s Lariccia See Them Rise Basketball Showcase at the Covelli Centre.
“I think we’re very tough mentally as a team, especially when we get in situations like that,” Mangapora said. “We’ve been in situations like that before, where we don’t have a good start and we finally have to kick it in and say, ‘Look, we have to make up some lost time here.’”
Trailing 14-4 after the first quarter, Canfield used a 13-3 second quarter advantage to tie the game at halftime. The Cardinals comeback was keyed by a switch from a man to zone defense.
“They made an adjustment and it slowed us way down,” Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead said. “Their zone defense really slowed us down and we went away from what we were capable of doing. I credit their defense.”
Still, the game was tied at 21 heading into the fourth quarter until Canfield’s Rachel Tinkey emerged. Entering the final period with only two points, Tinkey scored 10 in the fourth quarter alone. Her final three points were the dagger, as her and-one layup after a tough rebound extended the lead to 34-24.
“I was just trying to get in there and get fouled and if I made it, I made it,” Tinkey said of her final bucket. “I was just able to get to the hoop off the dribble, attack a little more and just be a little more aggressive than I was prior.”
Tinkey’s efforts were a welcomed sight for the Cardinals (14-1), who only had one other player in double figures. It was Mangapora with 22 points, carrying the offensive load for the majority of the game.
“The first three, four minutes of the game, she wasn’t stellar at all,” Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. “Once we started getting a little flow going and she felt more comfortable in there, we were able to go ahead and give her the basketball. She showed why she’s a first team all-state player.”
Mangapora also grabbed 17 rebounds.
“It really starts with a great group of girls around me,” she said. “They really look to get me the ball, and in situations like that, that’s what you gotta do.”
Hickory (11-2) was led by Holly Grober with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“We knew the key would be to contain [Grober] tonight and I think we did that,” Tinkey said. “We collapsed down a little and stopped her penetration.”