Shives hits 1,000th in Struthers’ win
By ERIC FORTUNE
Back in December, a back-and-forth effort in the final quarter from Struthers and Canfield added an extra dimension to Saturday’s game.
The Wildcats had the extra pressure with McKenna Shives within five points of reaching 1,000 for her career and the only team to beat them in conference play, Austintown Fitch, looming in five days.
But instead of those obstacles working against them, the Wildcats pushed the right buttons and pulled away in the final quarter to win 51-36 in an All-American Conference American Division game.
“They played so much stronger physically and mentally than last time,” Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. “That was the difference in the game. They just did and that happens throughout the season. What happened to Struthers a few days against Hickory just happened to us.
“How they responded, we hope to respond in kind. We know we are a better team than we showed today, but Struthers knew that about themselves when they played Hickory. They really came out and showed they deserve a shot for the league title when they play Fitch.”
Shives started the game with a 3-pointer and joined six other Struthers players in the school’s 1,000-point club when she scored on a fast-break layup at 4:33 of the first quarter.
“I was glad I could get it early and focus back on the game because it was a big one for us,” Shives said. “I really have to give it up to my teammates. If not for them, I couldn’t have accomplished this.”
She finished with 11 points for the game.
“I was really worried about it to be honest with you because sometimes that became more important than the game,” Struthers coach John Grandy said. “They’re kids. It was the elephant in the room. Everybody knew what she needed. I’m glad she got it early and out of the way. I think they responded to that in a positive way, but I was worried about. I probably shouldn’t have been because they proved me wrong.
“It wasn’t a selfish thing because McKenna would tell you that she’d rather win. She’s a team player all the way. She told the team in the locker room, ‘This wasn’t my award, this was everybody’s.’ She gave it to her grandpa, which teared me up a little.”
After Shives’ third bucket of the opening quarter made it 14-8 after one, the Cardinals (11-6, 7-4) prove to be pesky getting it back within one at 14-13 after a Rachel Tinkey bucket.
Struthers (13-4, 9-1) proved to be resilient time again throughout the quarter as the Wildcats made the necessary shots to extend their advantage to 26-19 at the half.
The Wildcats continued to stay strong defensively holding the Cardinals to 4-of-11 shooting, but couldn’t do much with their own shooting woes (3-of-9) to get any type of separation clinging to a 33-27 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
“We definitely needed to step it up on the defensive end and guard their big posts,” Shives said. “We’re a little undersized, but we were able to help down which definitely worked out. We were able to slow their offense down and play our game instead of theirs.”
After a 3 from Ashley Kaleel made it a five-point game, the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run with Brittaney Zupko scoring 10 of her game-high 19 points late.
Struthers held Tinkey to just two points and 11 for the game instead of the show she put on last time with 32 points, including 19 in the final quarter.
“We beat a good team and a good coach,” Grandy said. “They are well coached and have a great program. What we did tonight was probably our best game we played. I think it started on the defensive end. We really D’d up.”