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Canfield beats JFK 65-53 to hand Eagles third straight loss

Staff photo / Preston Byers. Canfield’s Tony Russo (15) surveys the floor, while being defended by Kennedy’s Quinn Meola (12) on Tuesday.

CANFIELD — The Canfield and Warren JFK boys basketball teams met Tuesday night in a clash of teams seemingly going in opposite directions. The trends continued for both teams, as the Cardinals defeated the Eagles at home 65-53, notching Canfield’s third straight win and Kennedy’s third consecutive loss.

Before this skid, the Eagles had accumulated a 12-1 record and looked like a strong, formidable team. Now, Kennedy coach Mark Komlanc is searching for answers.

“I got to figure out a way to get them to execute and make the right plays at the right time. Right now, I’m struggling with that. I got to do a better job,” Komlanc said. “I wish I had an answer because that’s what I got to search for and figure out what we can do better as a coaching staff to get them locked in to start the game, and stay locked-in in big moments.”

Before Tuesday’s loss in Canfield, Kennedy dropped back-to-back road games to Canton Central Catholic on Wednesday and Mogadore on Friday. Each of the Eagles’ three consecutive losses have been by at least 10 points.

In its latest defeat, Kennedy struggled from the opening tip, falling behind 18-5 in the first four minutes of the game. While the Eagles cut the deficit to five at separate points, they never led or drew any closer.

When asked what positives, if any, could be taken from the three recent defeats, Komlanc paused for nearly 10 seconds trying to find his words.

“They’re a great group of kids. And I know they got better from last week to today. So that’s positive. As a staff, we just got to do a better job,” Komlanc said.

Senior guard Dom Cruz led the way for Canfield with a game-high 29 points. Cruz shot over outstretched Kennedy arms and attacked the Eagles’ interior with drives throughout the game.

“Normally, I’m really a three point shooter,” Cruz said. “And especially in the first quarter, I banged two of those threes and that led to them closing out on me pretty hard. And I was able to sweep and go.”

After Cruz’s big night, Canfield coach John Cullen said that a player like Cruz makes it even tougher on opposing defenses.

“The thing is that there’s so many guys you got to guard on our team that are effective, and he did a good job of taking advantage of the people that they had on him,” Cullen said.

In the first half, the Cardinals grew their lead to 15, but a stronger second quarter by Kennedy cut the lead to five and ultimately put the game within single digits at the half, with Canfield leading 38-30.

After the break, neither team took control of the game in the third quarter; Canfield largely retained its halftime advantage as the teams went to the fourth with the Cardinals leading 50-43.

In the fourth, Canfield became more careful and selective with its offensive possessions. As a result, and with Kennedy’s offense failing to respond effectively, the Cardinals’ lead swelled to 17 in the final four minutes. Canfield sat on its double-digit lead the rest of the way, securing the 12-point triumph.

Junior forward Nick Ryan led the Eagles in points, scoring 23. Nico Ciminero and Jaden Rishel each had 10 points as well.

In addition to Cruz, Ben Weaver and Sam Castronova scored in double-figures for Canfield, finishing with 13 and 10, respectively.

Cullen said he doesn’t plan on making any big changes as postseason play looms for the Cardinals.

“Our job is to keep making little adjustments and little corrections and not turn into somebody different when the tournament starts,” Cullen said. “This is who we are, and we’re trying to make sure that we give that gift every time we come out, not just on the nights we’re feeling good.”

Kennedy (12-4, 5-1) will attempt to get back into the win column for the first time since Jan. 23 on Friday when it hosts St. Thomas Aquinas. The Eagles won the first meeting of the season on the road 75-60 on Dec. 22.

Canfield (12-4, 4-1) will begin a six-game road stretch on Friday when the Cardinals travel to Warren G. Harding for the second meeting of the year with the Raiders. Canfield won the first game Jan. 16 by five points.

pbyers@tribtoday.com

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