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Cardinals crushed by rival in district semifinal

March 13, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Over the years, Canfield and Poland have played numerous classic contests whether it was on the basketball court, the football gridiron or the baseball diamond.

Last Wednesday night's Division II boys basketball district semifinal between the two rival schools was not one of them. Poland dominated the Canfield boys both in the paint and on the boards for the entire game as it clinched a spot in the district championship 64-30. With such a demoralizing defeat, there wasn't much Canfield's head coach could do after the game aside from paying homage to his adversary.

"Poland played with more initiative," said Todd Muckleroy. "They wanted it most. They were the better team (on Wednesday night)."

It didn't take long for the nearly packed house at Boardman's gym to realize that fact either. The Bulldogs took an early 4-0 lead, but thanks to a three-pointer from Kyle Gamble, Canfield was able to close that gap to 4-3. It would stay close for the remaining minutes of the first period. Then, with just a few seconds left in the stanza, Poland's Braeden O'Shaughnessy sank a three-pointer and was fouled on the shot. He calmly drained the free throw as the first period buzzer sounded. Thanks to that unconventional four-point play, a 13-10 game became a 17-10 Bulldog advantage after one quarter.

As in the first frame, Poland pilfered the first four points of period two. After the Cardinals scored for the first time in the second, the Bulldogs went on a game-killing 9-2 run that pushed their lead into double digits. Canfield would keep missing opportunities and Poland kept capitalizing to take an insurmountable 45-18 lead at halftime.

The senior Gamble tried all he could to save the Cardinals' season. He would end his high school career with 11 points against the Bulldogs. That would include half of Canfield's four three-pointers. The Cardinals shot a woeful 4 for 16 from beyond the arc in the loss. Joe Bruno hit the other two triples to finish with eight points. Senior Conor Crogan collected seven points in his swan song. Aydin Hanousek was the other Canfield senior who played his final contest. He had one field goal and one free throw to garner 3 points. Luke Pallante and Brenden Bova are the other two seniors on Canfield's roster and Muckleroy was sorry he had to say goodbye to them so early in March.

"It's never easy to have to make that last post game speech," Muckleroy said. "This senior class will be sorely missed. I hope they realize the legacy that they created in their work ethic and preparation for this season. I hope our younger players took special notice and will follow that same lead."

Four of the juniors from this year's group that should take on a larger leadership role in 2019/2020 will be Bruno, Brayden Beck, Brent Herrmann and Jake Kowal. From that four, Bruno was the biggest contributor to this year's 13-12 squad. While that record doesn't seem inspiring, the Cardinals did have some notable wins including one at Poland on Dec. 8. There was also a victory in a game played at Quicken Loans Arena over Louisville and two triumphs each over conference cousins Austintown Fitch and Howland. Despite the season's ups and downs, Canfield's coach hopes his returnees build off those momentous achievements and erase the bad outings like the one in the district semis.

"As difficult as the conclusion was for my players the last game should never define who we are and what we accomplished this season," Muckleroy said. "We had some tough moments and times of adversity, but I would hope that these players learn from these experiences with the ultimate purpose of becoming a successful individual in their personal and professional lives."



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