Canfield’s Rachel Tinkey is fouled driving to the basketball by Green defender McKenzie Black during the second half of their Division I district semifinal Monday at the Walsh University Alumni Arena in North Canton. The Cardinals edged the Bulldogs, 41-38, in overtime to advance to the final Friday against the winner of tonight’s contest between Perry and Hoover.
Canfield erases deficit of 17 to bounce Green
By Kevin Connelly
Canfield sophomore point guard Ashley Kaleel picked a heck of a time to score her first points of the Division I district tournament.
After clawing its way back from a 17-point deficit in the second half of Monday night’s district semifinal game against Uniontown Green, the Canfield girls team forced overtime with all the momentum and went on to win, 41-38.
It wasn’t easy. The Cardinals trailed the Bulldogs 38-37 with 20 seconds remaining in the overtime period when Green’s McKenzie Black threw an inbound pass off the bottom of the backboard from underneath her own hoop.
On the ensuing possession, Canfield’s Lynnae Whitehead found Kaleel open along the baseline where she knocked down a jumper with 11 seconds left to take a one-point lead.
After a Green timeout, Tinkey clinched the victory with a steal and two free throws.
“I saw the pass coming at me and in my head I was like ‘I can do this, I’m gonna make this shot,’ ” said Kaleel on the game-winner. “I stroked it and it just went in. It was the best feeling ever.”
Tinkey led the comeback, scoring 18 of her game-high 26 points in the second half. The Cardinals also held Green to a lower point output in the final quarters plus overtime, than they did in either quarter of the first half.
“It was just amazing,” Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. “There were no adjustments other than, mentally, go compete against them.
“We did not compete in the first half like we did against Austintown Fitch on Thursday.”
Pavlansky said he stressed to the girls to play with the emergency brake off after scoring just 10 points in the first half.
The Cardinals shot just 4-of-20 over the first 16 minutes and as a result trailed by 16 points as they went into the locker room.
“The way we played in the first half we needed to have short-term memory and go out there and give it our best,” said Tinkey, who also had eight rebounds.
It became a tale of two halves as Tinkey hit the game’s first 3-pointer on the opening possession of the second half.
However the Bulldogs’ ability to quickly transition from defense to offense and finish at the rim helped them stretch out their lead to 30-13 early in the third quarter.
But over the next 131/2 minutes, the Cardinals outscored Green 22-5 and even had a chance to win the game in regulation.
With less than a minute remaining, the Bulldogs came up empty on their final possession giving Canfield the ball with 30 seconds left.
Yet still, coming out of a timeout, the Cardinals weren’t able to get a good look at the basket, sending the game to overtime.
Canfield scored the first two points of the extra time, but Green took the lead on a Tarah McCausland 3-pointer from the corner — the team’s only 3-point field goal.
Then Tinkey missed a jumper and Green turned the ball over on the inbound play leaving time for Kaleel to become maybe the unlikeliest of heros.
Or maybe not, according to her coach and teammates.
“She’s one of our better shooters and we trust Ashley,” Pavlansky said. “If you came to our practices, you would see Ashley make shot after shot after shot ... but she’s a young sophomore.
“You don’t hit that shot unless you’re tough mentally and she’s a tough kid.”
Perhaps the Cardinal everyone thought would take the last shot was the least surprised at the outcome.
“Oh, she’s one of our best shooters,” Tinkey said. “She stroked the thing and we have complete confidence. I think as soon as she let it go she knew it was going in.”