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Cards down Salem 74-47

March 6, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

When Canfield's boys basketball team ended the regular season with three consecutive losses it looked as if its stay in the Division II tournament was going to be a short one.

The second season for the Cardinals has been a rebirth of sorts however. Back-to-back wins over Salem and Ursuline have earned the Canfield kids a sectional championship. The Cardinals advanced into the Youngstown District round where they encountered old nemesis Poland this past Wednesday night. Prior to that battle with the 21-2 Bulldogs, Canfield head coach Todd Muckleroy made it known that his kids recognized the magnitude of the matchup.

"You know these guys aren't going to treat it like any other game," said Muckleroy after the tilt with top-seeded Poland became official. "I think we need to treat it as importantly as any other game. We're starting to level up our play a little bit at the right time. Everyone is 0-0 when the tournament starts. Right now, there is no doubt that my team is in a good place as we have captured the sectional title."

The right time last Friday night against the Irish was the fourth quarter. Canfield held a slim 39-36 advantage after three periods, but established control of the game thanks to senior point guard Conor Crogan. Canfield's court general scored nine of hit team high 23 points in the final frame to keep the Cardinals in front. They would go on to win 53-48 helping erase some of the bad memories of their inconsistent regular slate.

"The Ursuline game was a major confidence builder," said Muckleroy. "Throughout the 22 game season we did suffer some setbacks, but we were always aware that we were playing against some good teams. Our schedule challenged our team for the ultimate goal of being successful during tournament time."

While Crogan was doing his thing offensively, Canfield's defense was doing its best to undo Ursuline. The Irish were forced into seven fourth quarter turnovers as they attempted to come from behind. A shaky 10 for 22 from the foul line also attributed to Ursuline only scoring 12 points over the final eight minutes.

Joining Crogan at the top of Canfield's scoring rollcall was Aydin Hanousek with 14 points. The Cardinals were able to survive an abysmal 2 for 11 performance from 3-point territory. Ursuline, conversely, was 6 for 17 from beyond the arc but it didn't help much.

Ironically, it was an important triple that spearheaded the Cardinals' charge in their sectional semifinal win over Salem. Six-foot- four junior Joe Bruno buried a three-pointer that started a 9-0 Canfield run in the third quarter. At that time, the Cardinals were only up a bucket. That nine point advantage doubled before the game settled at 74-47 in favor of Muckleroy's men. Four three-pointers in the third also aided Canfield's run. That kind of shooting eluded the Cardinals a lot over the final part of the regular season schedule.

"In that third quarter we just came out and made some shots," Muckleroy said. "We hit some long distance shots that really helped us. Those aren't shots we normally make."

Crogan was Canfield's hot shot again scoring 20 points to lead the way. Bruno's big third period allowed him to end the game with 16 points. Kyle Gamble was good for 11 points.

When Poland announced it would be leaving the All American Conference for the newly formed Northeast 8 it seemed as if important battles between the Bulldogs and Cardinals would be a thing of the past. The two rivals rekindled their relationship on Dec. 8 with Canfield upsetting Poland on its home floor 49-45. The Bulldogs wouldn't lose again until Dec. 28 to Boardman. Since then, Poland has pulled off 16 straight wins, including a 74-47 annihilation of Niles in their sectional final. It will certainly take a yeoman's effort for Muckleroy's gang to disqualify Poland from the districts. On the eve of the contest, the coach was confident his boys could compete with the district's top seed because they have been battle tested over this rocky campaign.

"One thing that never changed was their work ethic, preparation and the ability to stay together despite the losses we were taking," said Muckleroy about his club. "We've now added belief to that equation."



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