Canfield blocks West Branch from regional once again
AUSTINTOWN – One glaring number stood out during Saturday’s Division II district championship between West Branch and Canfield: zero – the number of points the Warriors scored in the second quarter.
The second-seeded Warriors were shut out by the top-seeded Cardinals in the second stanza on the way to suffering a 50-47 defeat in the district finals in front of a full house at Austintown Fitch High School.
It was the second straight year Canfield lost to West Branch in the regular season before defeating the Warriors in the district final.
“From the beginning of the season, this was our goal to make it back here and win it twice in a row,” said Canfield senior Sabrina Mangapora, whose shot at the buzzer beat the Warriors in the district final last year. “We’ve always had a little rivalry with West Branch, so winning the game against them kind of makes it a bit more special. “
Mangapora – who is headed to Ball State University on a volleyball scholarship – led the Cardinals with 14 points and nine rebounds. Rachel Tinkey added 10 points.
Canfield improves to 25-1, the only loss coming to West Branch in the third game of the season. Canfield will play Parma Heights Holy Name in the regional semifinals at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at Barberton High School.
West Branch had its 12-game winning streak snapped to finish with a a 23-3 record.
“I love this team,” West Branch coach Walt DeShields said. “I know we won’t be back together as a team in uniform but they will be a team and part of the group for the rest of their lives.”
Amanda Linhart led the Warriors with 11 points.
Despite failing to record a basket in the second frame, the Warriors were still within striking distance at the half at 18-11.
West Branch and Canfield traded baskets for much of the first quarter, which eventually saw the Warriors take a two-point lead after one quarter on a basket by Linhart with 1:12 to play in the frame. Then, suddenly, the Warriors went cold.
“We have some serious length on our team,” Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. “We have some bigger girls, some stronger girls, and relatively fast girls. All season long our opponents were shooting about 19 percent from three-point range. The last time we played West Branch I think they hit nine or 10 three’s against us. So we had to take that away first.”
West Branch failed to score a basket for the next nine minutes and 40 seconds, until Taryn Hahn opened the third quarter with a three pointer from the wing.
As quickly as the Warriors went cold, they caught fire just as swiftly.
“We wanted to get a good hand on every shooter and they still made a bunch, they ricochet one in from the corner off the backboard,” Pavlansky said. “They’re a great team and it’s a one possession game that could have gone either way.”
Taryn Hahn, Brittany Bryte and Pavin Heath each connected on three pointers as West Branch turned their seven-point deficit into a one-point advantage midway through the third quarter when Amanda Linhart connected on a basket with 4:16 to play in the quarter.
“We’re very proud of our girls, we were down and got shut out in the second quarter and for a young group to survive that and still be in the game, and to eventually take the lead in the third quarter,” DeShields said. “That shows the character of this team and the fight that they’re not willing to give up that district crown so easily.”
Canfield reclaimed the lead moments later on a three-point play from Mangapora at 2:06 and closed out the quarter with a 30-26 lead.
“We knew a couple tough things in this game were going to be rebounds and some loose balls on the floor,” DeShields said. “It seemed like they were maybe a step quicker or a little bit stronger to get those rebounds and extra shot opportunities and limit us to one shot. That’s a big key in the game. “
West Branch mounted another comeback attempt in the fourth quarter. Down by eight, Bryte connected on a triple to cut the deficit to five. Following a pair of free throws from Mangapora, Amanda Linhart brought the Warriors back within five.
Another pair of free throws by Canfield’s Abby Baker pushed the Cardinal lead out to seven with less than 30 seconds to play. That’s when Hahn buried a three with 14.7 seconds left to pull the Warriors within four.
Linhart added a basket at the buzzer to bring the Warriors within three points, but time had run out on West Branch’s bid.
“They’ve done nothing but represent West Branch and their community with the utmost class all year long,” DeShields said. “We’ve had a lot of wins and not very many losses and it’s awful tough when you’re competitors as our coaching staff is and the girls on this team are, to take losses.”
The 37 points were a season low for the Warriors. They scored less than 50 points five times this season, including the last two games.
West Branch hit 147 three-pointers on the season.
DeShields thanked the fans, parents and coaching staff following the game for all of the work and support given to the Warriors’ program this season.
“I want to tell the families, thank you for their support. In particular my family, for all the support and time they spend away from me,” DeShields said. “I want to thank my coaching staff. They just did a tremendous job. They just spent a lot of time with the girls and a lot of time on the road scouting and putting time in the gym to make this season possible.”