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Poland meets nemesis Canfield with big stakes on the table

March 6, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

When Poland announced its athletic teams would leave the All American Conference and participate in the newly formed Northeast 8 Conference, one of the biggest losers was the rivalry between the Bulldogs and Canfield.

Sure, the two schools squared off on the basketball court very early this season, but it didn't have the same feel as the late season conference clashes of the past. These two adversaries got another crack at each other on March 6 in Boardman. The stakes in that showdown were incredibly higher as the victor would advance to the Division II Youngstown District championship. Before that battle with his school's arch nemesis, Poland head coach Ken Grisdale acknowledged the enormity of the contest.

"All tournament games are very meaningful," said Grisdale, "but to get an opportunity to play your biggest rival makes it even more special."

Grisdale's gang made it into the district semifinal by securing the school's 20th sectional championship in his 26 year tenure. Poland annihilated Niles 74-47 at home on March 1 to capture the sectional belt. That was the Bulldogs' 16th straight win and pushed their record to an amazing 21-2 on the year.

The Bulldogs were never really in any danger of being unceremoniously eliminated early from the tournament by the undermanned Red Dragons. They built an early 19-12 lead behind the shooting of junior guard Michael Cougras who scored eight of his 14 points over the first eight minutes. A total of four three-pointers by Poland pushed its lead to 33-17 at halftime.

Senior guard Braeden O'Shaughnessy made sure the Bulldogs' would cruise to victory when he scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half. Fellow senior Daniel Kramer led Poland in scoring with 20 points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds. Poland enjoyed a 40-26 rebounding advantage over the Dragons. The win was also the Bulldogs' third this season over Niles. They didn't leave any doubt in those games either as they outscored the Dragons by a combined 72 points. The combined effort of all the Bulldogs last Friday night enabled them to easily advance in the tournament.

"I was pleased with our balanced scoring," said Grisdale. "Michael Cougras stepped up in the first half, then our entire supporting cast stepped up and did their jobs."

With the potential colossal clash with the Cardinals hanging in the balance, it would have been easy for Grisdale's boys to sleepwalk through their game with the 13-10 Dragons. That wasn't the case for this business-like bunch of Bulldogs.

"They have learned that you can't take anything for granted," Grisdale said. "They have a great amount of respect for their opponents."

Respectfully speaking, the Cardinals haven't been as competitive this winter as many predicted prior to the start of the season. This senior led squad struggled to a 13-11 record, including three straight losses to end the regular season. Canfield's fortunes have turned in the tournament, though, as it eliminated Salem 74-47 in the sectional semis and upset fourth seeded Ursuline 53-48 in the sectional championship last week. The Cards also have an impressive 49-45 road win over their rivals under their beaks. That triumph was way back on Dec. 8, which was before the Bulldogs caught their groove and began their onslaught on the rest of the area. The winner of this district semi will advance to play the winner of the game between number two seed Lakeview and three seed Chaney in the Youngstown District championship.

 
 

 

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