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Loss to unbeaten Harding puts Canfield girls in a conference hole

January 29, 2020
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Canfield's girls basketball team was looking for some redemption as it hosted Warren Harding last Saturday afternoon.

Back on Jan. 8, Harding humbled the Lady Cardinals at home 49-38. This rematch was one the local ladies really needed to win if they wanted to stay alive for an All American Conference Red Tier title. Instead, the Lady Raiders remained undefeated in the league as they came away with a 42-33 victory. Although Canfield's overall record stands at an impressive 12-5, the loss to the Warren kids dropped them two games behind in the AAC. With two of those setbacks provided by the conference leading Raiders, it is actually a four-game deficit.

"Our girls played extremely hard," said Canfield head coach Matt Reel in a text. "Warren Harding played better."

Reel's kids battled as best as they could against the 15-2 Raiders. Senior post player Aiden Orlovsky scored all of her team high 11 points in the first half as the Cardinals remained close to their red-hot adversary. In the second half, however, Harding's Faith Burch took over. She would nail 5 of 8 free throws after intermission to thwart any Canfield comeback aspiration. Burch ended the contest with 16 points and also captured the attention of Coach Reel.

"Faith Burch made big plays down the stretch for (Harding)," Reel said.

It was Reel's team that made the most plays a few nights earlier at Howland. This time it was Canfield's Marissa Ieraci who cemented the game from the free throw line. The junior hit six straight charity tosses and would go 8 for 10 total in the Cardinals' 52-45 victory. Ieraci ended the game with a team leading 18 points. She has also become quite the court general in her initial try at playing the point guard position. That was evident against the Lady Tigers.

"She's a first year starter at point guard and I thought as the game went on, she got more and more confident," said Reel. "She was excellent defensively too."

Canfield's defense was excellent as a whole in the first period as it held Howland to just four points early. The home team then charged back scoring six points in a row to cut that score down to 11-10. It was then Canfield that took control putting in the next 8 points. In fact, the visitors never trailed the entire game. Senior guard Grace Mangapora made 14 points in the win. Junior Morgan Carey connected on a huge three-pointer during the stretch that allowed Canfield to pull away. The triumph in Trumbull County made it a series sweep for the Cardinals over the Tigers. According to the coach, that's a difficult task to accomplish because one of those wins must come in the place he calls "The Pit."

"It's so difficult to win there," said Reel about Howland's gym. "It's exactly what we expected."

A showdown with Austintown Fitch was scheduled this past Wednesday. Both schools were looking to get back on the winning path in this rivalry encounter. After hosting a very good Walsh Jesuit squad to tip off February, the Cardinals will travel to upstart Boardman. No doubt Reel's girls will be favored to sweep the Lady Spartans as they did the Tigers. Following the battle with Boardman, Canfield's ladies will meet longtime nemesis Poland as they prepare for the state playoffs. Coach Reel knows this is the point of the schedule when your squad must be at the top of their game or it may be a quick exit from the post season.

"Our remaining games do not get any easier, but they will be great preparation for the tournament," he said. "Our goal is to be playing our best basketball going into the tournament. I love coaching our team. They have come to compete every practice and game and enjoy playing our competitive schedule."



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