The Division II Boardman District sectional final Friday between host Canfield and visiting Girard was a rematch of last season's second-round tournament tilt.
Unfortunately for the fans of the home team, the final result was not the same. It took five quarters, but the upstart No. 5 seed Indians upset the fourth-seeded Cardinals, 71-63.
The overtime triumph erased the Indians' bad memory of last year's 53-42 setback in the sectionals and sent the Cardinals into the offseason with a 12-12 overall record and 7-5 in the All-American Conference Red Tier.
Photos by Cindy DeRose / Town Crier
Canfield junior Spencer Woolley protects the ball as Niles senior SaQwaan McGuire tries to take the ball away.
"It just wasn't meant to be," Canfield head coach Todd Muckleroy said. "It's a sign of youth. You want the younger guys to let it set in and use this as a learning process."
The young Canfield squad got the home crowd into a frenzy when it jumped on Girard for an early 9-4 lead.
After a 16-3 run by the Indians left the Canfield fans almost incredulous, the Cardinals retook control with a 17-6 run of their own to pull to within five points at halftime.
A three-point barrage in the third period by the Canfield boys helped them climb back on top. Both teams battled in the fourth quarter, but when Girard got a bucket with just seconds remaining, extra time was needed.
The Indians cut down Canfield, 15-7, in the fifth frame to forge onward in the playoffs.
Girard now will battle No.2 seed Ursuline 7 p.m. tonight in the district semifinal at Boardman High School. The winner of that tilt will take on the victor of Wednesday's semifinal between first-seeded Poland and sixth-seeded Salem. The semifinal winners will play 4 p.m. Saturday, with the winner moving to the regional at Canton Civic Center versus the Stow District winner.
"It's disappointing when you lose in overtime," Muckleroy said. "We struggled in a lot of close games and overtime games this year."
Canfield's coach also struggled when it came time to bid farewell to his quartet of seniors in the locker room. Although senior Lance Batton was a transfer from Ursuline, Jake Cummings didn't play basketball as a junior and Jared Clark is known more for his football prowess, they were a huge part of the Canfield basketball family.
The fourth senior, Brandon McFall, leaves the most varsity hoops experience behind and was a great example of the closeness Muckleroy had with his graduating bunch.
"You don't want to see the seniors go out this way," Muckleroy said. "They had great dedication (to the basketball program). I hope they learn from this and use it in their professional lives."
Cummings concluded his Canfield career with 15 points at the sectional final. He shared top-scoring honors with junior Zach Tinkey. McFall hit a pair of three-pointers to score six points. Clark collected three points, and junior Spencer Woolley had a nice season finale with 14 points.
Tinkey, Woolley, Ben Shapiro, Ian McGraw and Ethan Kalina are five juniors who saw the most on floor action this winter and should make up the bulk of Muckleroy's 2017-18 rotation.
Tinkey's three triples in the sectional final and Woolley's double-digit scoring performance proves that the Cardinals should be able to keep up the offensive pressure on next year's opponents.
Muckleroy now wants all of his returnees to work this offseason on some of the traits that can't be athletically measured.
"They need to take to heart the mental aspect of the game," he said. "They need to learn what they need to do to become a winning basketball program."