By Brandon Judeh
A brilliant first half gave way to a sloppy second half for the Canfield girls basketball team in a 49-34 loss to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown in a Division II regional final on Friday night.
With the Blazers leading 18-16 at the start of the third quarter, Canfield had a chance to tie or take the lead.
But after the Cardinals made two costly turnovers, Hathaway Brown’s lead swelled to six points, 22-16.
“We liked the way we were playing in the first half, but we had a couple turnovers to open up the second half,” Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. “Hathaway is an outstanding team. That’s why they are the four-time defending state champions.”
Hathaway Brown’s lead would soon increase to seven, but Canfield senior Sabrina Mangapora drained a big 3-pointer to trim the deficit to four.
Moments later, Kayla Barko grabbed an offensive rebound, scored and was fouled. The Cardinals found themselves down by only a point, but they never caught or passed the Blazers.
“I can’t be more proud of all of my kids and my seniors for how hard they played and all that they have accomplished,” Pavlansky said. “They are tied for the most wins in a season with 26 and own the school record for most consecutive wins with 24.
“What a great legacy they have left behind for our younger girls.”
The Blazers’ Nia Marshall took over the game in the second half, scoring 14 of her 25 points. Marshall and Vanessa Smith combined for nearly 88 percent of the Blazers’ offense.
Mangapora led Canfield with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Though Mangapora has been successful both on and off the court for the past four years, she said what she will miss most is lacing up her shoes and hitting the court with her fellow seniors.
“Where do I even start? All of us are so close, even though we may never play on the same court again, the friendships will always remain strong,” Mangapora said.
Paige Baker agreed.
“This season was amazing, especially because I got to experience it with a great group of girls that have all played together since elementary school,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s over, though. High school went way too fast.”
Canfield (26-2) controlled the tempo early with a patient half-court offense and smart shots.
The Cardinals held Hathaway Brown (21-6) to 16 first-half points and caused several Hathaway Brown mistakes.
“We felt really good going into the locker room,” Canfield senior Abby Baker said. “When you hold a team like that to 16 points in a half, that is impressive. We executed very well and we can’t hang our heads.”
The Cardinals’ seniors agreed that they met every goal they set out to accomplish. They feel they represented the school and their community well.
“One of our goals was to come out and make people proud and make the younger girls want to be a part of the success that we have at Canfield,” Mangapora said.
Barko scored seven points for Canfield and Allison Pavlansky added six. Both are seniors.