By Brandon Judeh
It’s hard to believe that in a few short weeks the high school basketball season will be over. The teams still alive don’t want to think about that.
Take the Canfield girls basketball team for instance, as they prepare for a Division II regional semifinal game tonight against Parma Heights Holy Name at Barberton High School.
The Cardinals find themselves in familiar territory as they return to the regional for the second consecutive year.
“It’s huge having a team that has the experience of playing on a big stage,” Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. “When a team has success at a high level like in the regional tournament, that’s very important.”
After losing to powerhouse Hathaway Brown last season the Cardinals return to Barberton to face Holy Name (16-9), after the Green Wave defeated Vermilion 52-45 to claim the Elyria district championship.
“What we know about them is they have won eight in a row, they play man-to-man defense, they have a couple spot-up shooters and they like to pass the ball inside,” Pavlansky said.
Holy Name used a balanced attack to beat Vermilion. Rachel Kucharczyk led the Green Wave with 14 points, while Kim Cook and Erica Davis each had 12. The trio offset a 32-point effort by Vermilion’s AuBree LaForce.
No matter what Holy Name’s offense throws Canfield’s way, the Cardinals expect to be able to adjust quickly, as their defense has dominated all season long. They’ve allowed just 35.8 points per game.
Spearheading the defense are seniors Allison Pavlansky and Abby Baker.
“These girls know what they have to do,” Pat Pavlansky said.
“They know they need to play defense every possession and that great defense will take them places.”
Defense has carried the Cardinals to a 25-1 record, 23 consecutive victories, an All-American Conference American Division title and a Fitch district championship.
Their hard work also helped them shut down perhaps the best offense in the area.
Canfield held West Branch to 37 points, including a scoreless second quarter.
Though the Cardinals have been clicking on all cylinders, Pat Pavlansky said that his team got better with Monday afternoon’s practice.
“We went over the West Branch game and walked through some things that we didn’t do well and it seemed to really click with the girls,” he said.
Canfield averages 62 points and has beaten opponents by an average margin of 26.2 points. Senior forward Sabrina Mangapora, last year’s All-Northeast Inland District Player of the Year, averages a team-high 18.3 points.
Rounding out their potent offense are Paige Baker, Kayla Barko, Rachel Tinkey and Lynnae Whitehead.
No matter what happens tonight, Pavlansky, who has been at the helm for 18 years, says that he is not ready to say goodbye to this group of girls.
“I’m grateful that we have made it this far and that I still get to coach these girls,” he said. “I guess I’m selfish, I just don’t want to see this group go because they are great kids and I have a lot of fun coaching them. I’m really going to miss them once the season is over.”