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Lady Cardinals clipped by Warren Harding for third time
March 11, 2020

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The third time was not the charm for the Canfield girls basketball team.

On Feb. 25, Canfield's ladies squared off with the Warren Harding women in what ended up being the last of three meetings between the two schools this season. The Lady Raiders walloped the Canfield kids by a combined score of 91-71 already this year, but this final matchup would have much higher stakes than those two regular season tilts. Fourth seeded Canfield clashed with number one Harding in the Division I district semifinal in Ravenna. Unfortunately, this semifinal went the same way as those first two meetings. Harding started hot and really never cooled down as it ended the Lady Cardinals' season 55-33. On the bright side, Canfield concluded this year with a sectional championship and a respectable 17-8 record. The downside to this season was the team wasn't equipped enough to compete with the likes of Harding or #2 seed Stow-Munroe Falls (who ended up beating Harding in the final).

"We need to learn how to play better against (the likes of Harding and Stow)," said Canfield head coach Matt Reel. "I'm hoping our returning players will have a better understanding of the style we need to play to better compete with them."

Reel's group had a very hard time competing with the Raiders in the playoffs. Harding led by 12 points after one quarter then stretched that lead throughout the game. It led 37-19 at halftime thanks in part to the 22 points they scored off of fast breaks. Another huge advantage the Raiders had was in rebounding where they held a 33-15 margin. The ability to bang the glass gave them too many second chance points. It was an outing that was nearly perfect according to Canfield's coach.

"That was the most complete performance (Harding) had in the three times we played them," said Reel. "They punched us in the mouth and we never recovered. We hope this experience will allow our younger kids to see how to play in these types of games."

Indeed, the Cardinals will have a roster with some very good younger kids next November. Juniors Marissa Ieraci, who scored eight points in the season ending loss, Gia Francisco and Morgan Carey all played significant roles this year. Sophomores Alyssa Dill and Madi Klughart will also be counted upon next season. Dill had a very strong second season for the Cardinals. Sophomore Summer Sammarone has made huge strides this year. She most likely will be a major factor in Reel's offense a year from now.

Senior Grace Mangapora tallied 10 points to lead the Cardinals in the tournament finale. She also has been an offensive leader since she first stepped onto the court in Canfield four seasons ago. Losing Mangapora, as well as fellow future graduates Gabby Demidovich, Francesca Ricciardi and Aiden Orlovsky will leave a huge dent in the lineup. That quartet all complemented each other's skillset so well to help lead the Cards to a sectional crown.

"Their competitiveness in games and practices and their cohesiveness was hard to match," said Reel. "This team was so fun to coach."

Although this season stopped short of a long postseason run, there were still many instances where the Canfield girls succeeded tremendously. Coach Reel expounded on some of those highlights as he discussed this year's schedule.

"We beat Stow at Hoosier gym (in Indiana), Poland, West Branch, Louisville and swept Howland," he said.

Those triumphs, along with ones over Kent Roosevelt and Cuyahoga Falls in the first two rounds of the tournament, look good on Canfield's resume. What will look better is a stronger effort against mighty Warren Harding next year.

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