Canfield overcomes jittery start for romp
By TOM WILLIAMS
Minus one of its best players, the Canfield High School boys basketball got off to a sluggish start in Thursday’s season opener against Marlington.
But in the second half, the Cardinals were soaring on their way to a 61-44 victory. The Cardinals outscored the Dukes 19-8 in the third quarter.
Asked what the difference was, Canfield head coach Todd Muckleroy didn’t hesitate.
“Relaxation,” he said. “We came out with first-game jitters. Give a lot [of credit] to Marlington — they came out and slowed us down, made us really think.
“And I think we were thinking a little too much, playing a little too tight.”
Seniors Spencer Woolley (forward) and Ben Shapiro (guard) each scored 16 points.
Playing on a Thursday ahead of all the other teams was a bit unusual, Shapiro agreed.
“It definitely [required] an adjustment, especially for being the first game” Shapiro said. “I was excited because our preparation was very good. Our focus has been great so I wasn’t too worried.”
So what happened that the Dukes limited the Cards to six points in the opening quarter?
“Pregame jitters,” Shapiro said, laughing. “That’s behind us. I think we were all so excited to get out there after a great offseason.
Woolley scored the Cards’ only two baskets in the opening quarter. He added three free throws in the second quarter and nine points in the second half.
“We need him to do that,” Muckleroy said of Woolley’s scoring underneath. “People tend to focus on our guards. He’s very good at getting behind the defense, being at the right place at the right time and getting easy baskets for us.”
“We started off a little slow, obviously,” Woolley said. “In the second half, we started to settle in, pushing up the ball, beating their zone.
“We weren’t letting them settle up in their zone.”
Ahead 23-21 at the half, Shapiro and Ian McGraw hit 3-pointers early in the third quarter, then Woolley scored two baskets for a 10-point lead. By the end of the quarter, Canfield led 42-29.
“We made some shots and we made some small adjustments to their zone,” Muckleroy said. “You don’t have to coach these guys up too much because they are a veteran ballclub, they just want to go out and play.
Early in the fourth quarter, the lead was 53-31 after a 10-0 surge.
The Cards played without senior guard Zach Tinkey who is serving a two-game suspension for violating team rules.
“Zach wasn’t on the court but he was for sure in the game,” Woolley said. “His words of encouragement [were] keeping us positive.
“He’s a team player and having him every day in practice just makes us all better,” Woolley said. “We’re looking forward to having him back.”
Kyle Gamble started in Tinkey’s place and Muckleroy said the junior “did a great job. He plays solid — not the flashiest of players but a player who has great skills and good instinct for the game.”
For the Dukes, Austin Brady and Blane Himmelheber each scored 14 points.
“All day in school, it felt weird,” Wooley said of the unusual opening night. “But as soon as the [gymnasium] lights went off, it felt like a regular Friday night.”