Cardinals halt Niles rally
with late free throws
By Steve ruman
Mahoning Valley residents spent much of the week weathering a storm which brought with it plenty of wind, snow and sub-zero temperatures.
On Friday, the Canfield High basketball team was forced to weather a storm of a different variety. The Cardinals survived the challenge, and the result was a 64-59 All American Conference, American Division road win over Niles.
The victory lifts Canfield’s record to 7-2 (5-1). The Red Dragons fall to 5-4 (3-3).
Thanks to a six-point quarter by senior Jarret Vrabel, Canfield built an 18-7 lead after one period of play. The Cardinals maintained a double-digit advantage throughout the majority of the contest, and led 60-47 midway through the fourth quarter. However, Niles reeled off eight straight points to cut its deficit to 60-55 before the Cards were able to close the game out for good from the free- throw line.
Andrew Midgley led the victors with 16 points, 14 of which were scored before halftime. Vrabel finished with 14 while Brady Clark chipped in with 12.
Niles was paced by senior Marcus Hill, who scored a career-high 26 points. Hill pumped in seven field goals (including a pair of 3-pointers) and was 10 of 11 from the free throw line.
James Tate added 17 points for the Red Dragons.
“We always do find a way to make things interesting,” said Canfield coach Todd Muckleroy. “That’s been sort of our label, to turn the end of our games into nail-biters. We knew that Niles was a tough, well-coached bunch that wasn’t going to quit. We knew that they probably had a run left in them. We had to fight to hang on.”
Canfield, which outrebounded Niles 34-19, used its strength on the boards to build its early lead. The Cardinals turned numerous offensive rebounds into second-chance points, and in the process also put the Red Dragons in early foul trouble. The Cards led by as many as 14 midway through the second quarter, and took a 37-27 lead into the locker room.
“We had our looks, we got the shots we wanted in the first quarter, but they just wouldn’t fall,” said Niles coach Ron Price. “You put yourself into a difficult situation when you dig yourself a hole against a very good team like Canfield.
“I’m really proud of the way our kids battled back. That was a wild fourth quarter.”
Back-to-back baskets by Clark and Vrabel gave Canfield what seemed to be a comfortable 13-point lead with 3:55 left in the contest. However, a basket and free throw by Tate, a 3-pointer by Kyle Paden and a free throw from Hill with 1:04 remaining on the clock cut the Dragons’ deficit to 60-55.
The Dragons had several opportunities to cut the even deeper in the Canfield lead before the Cardinals were eventually able to separate themselves with free throws from Cole Pryjma and Mike Yourstowsky.
“We lost two games early in the season that we didn’t expect to lose, and looking back I think that was good for us,” Muckleroy said. “Those losses were sort of a kick in the teeth, and ever since we have picked things up.”
The 123 points scored by the two teams was nine points less that what the Cardinals and Red Dragons combined to score when they met in a football game in October. Canfield won the game, 70-62.