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Canfield boys in need of a boost before tournament begins

February 19, 2020
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Losing four out of five games is not exactly the way Canfield boys basketball head coach Todd Muckleroy wanted his club to enter the postseason.

Canfield will have one last regular season game against Poland on Feb. 21 before it starts the playoffs four nights later. The Cardinals will need to beat the Bulldogs if they want any momentum at all. They've only won one game in February and have fallen to 10-10 overall for the season. According to Muckleroy, the losses may have not been the desired end result, but the competition was certainly welcomed.

"We face athletic teams because it helps us become tournament ready," said the coach. "I feel good about where we are as a team. I know we've taken some lumps, but I can honestly say that we are improving with each practice and each contest."

Nobody will doubt the coach's beliefs, but certainly even he was dismayed with the Cardinals' performance at Uniontown Lake last Saturday. Canfield fell behind by ten points in the first half and had to claw its way back after intermission. Heroically, Muckleroy's men were able to tie the game just before the end of regulation to force overtime. Lake had the last laugh in the extra session outscoring the local guys 7-4 to steal a 53-50 victory. It was just the Blue Streaks' fifth win this season.

The Cardinals had another tough out of conference road tilt last Tuesday in Alliance. Granted, the 14-6 Aviators are a much more solid outfit than Lake, so it wasn't surprising that the struggling Cardinals struggled once again down there. Alliance sent Canfield home a 63-55 loser. Canfield was able to lead at halftime thanks partially to a 5 for 13 shooting effort from three-point land. Those successful shots came against a zone alignment used by the Aviators. After regrouping at halftime, Alliance switched things up and decided to deploy a man-to-man defense. That in-your-face strategy subdued Canfield's long range shooting. The local kids only hit one of four triples over the final two quarters allowing the Aviators to gain some control of the contest. The only successful one was off of the fingertips of senior Joe Bruno that gave Canfield a 37-36 lead about halfway into the third period. A 19-9 run by the home team from that point sealed the match for the Alliance men. The Aviators also held a 38-22 scoring advantage inside the paint leaving Canfield with few options to score.

"Over the course of the second half we couldn't hang with (Alliance's) big guys," Muckleroy explained.

Junior Trey Dye was one of Canfield's hot shooters in the first half hitting three from downtown. He ended the game with 14 points. Bruno was right behind him with 13 points. Senior guard Brayden Beck also eclipsed ten points scoring 12. Overall, the Cardinals were just 18 for 47 from the field compared to 25 for 48 by their opponent.

Muckleroy's boys will need to develop better shooting before the tournament commences. Perhaps some good habits will start against Poland on Friday. Canfield already handed its archrival a 35-33 loss on its home court on Jan. 11 so the prideful Poland group will certainly be looking to gain redemption from that setback. The Division II Youngstown District will tip off four nights later with the fourth seeded Cardinals hosting number 13 Salem. The Cardinals may be an up and down club this campaign, but the Quakers have been downright awful. Salem is just 4-16 at press time and have won only once since Jan. 24. If Canfield squashes Salem as predicted, it will advance to the sectional finals where it will meet the winner of the opening round match between Poland and Niles. So, a possible third grudge match with its nemesis seems to be in the cards. The top seed in the Youngstown District is Chaney. The 14-6 Cowboys are exactly the prize potentially awaiting Canfield in the district semifinals. The Redbirds still have a long way to go on the offensive end if they want to make that dream matchup a reality.



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