Poland Girls top Canfield in regular season finale


Poland topped Canfield 48-38 in the regular season finale for both teams on Thursday night.

CANFIELD, OHIO (WKBN) – The Poland Bulldogs are rolling into tournament play as they beat the Canfield Cardinals Thursday night 48-38 to revenge a 4-point loss to the Cardinals back in December.  The Bulldogs close the regular season 20-2, while the Cardinals end the campaign at 15-7.

“This is always a rivalry game, we know that.  But they got us earlier in the season, they gave us one of our two blemishes this season.  That really motivated us to come out and play hard,” Bulldogs junior guard Jackie Grisdale stated.  “We didn’t want them to get us again.  And we need the momentum going into the tournament.”

“Tonight was all about revenge,” Bulldogs coach Nick Blanch remarked about the second meeting.  “That was our focus.  Just for the fact that we felt that we didn’t play our best earlier in the year.  We knew they were a good team, and I didn’t feel we put our best foot forward that night.  Tonight that was our redemption.”

The Bulldogs will now host a Division II sectional final contest next Thursday when they play the winner of the Struthers – Niles game from Saturday.  The Cardinals will have to forget the loss quickly as they play this Saturday in a Division I sectional first-round contest when they entertain Kent Roosevelt.

“It’s all kinds of momentum, it’s why we schedule each other at the end of the season,” Bulldogs coach Nick Blanch remarked about the victory.  “We want each others best because win or lose, you’re going to take something from this game.  Right now the momentum we have is good but it’s not going to get us any points in our next game.”

“When you play really good teams like Poland, these kinds of things can happen,” Cardinals coach Matt Reel admitted.  “With our schedule, one game after another just prepares us for the tournament, and even in a loss, I think there is a lot we can take from it.  I think our young kids learned about the intensity you need to have every night and come out and play.”

Jackie Grisdale led the Bulldogs on the night as she scored 23 points, including 2 treys.  Brooke Bobby gathered 8 points while Connie Cougras added 7.  Kaitlyn Brown, Morgan Kluchar, and Ella Harrell all grabbed 5 rebounds apiece to control the boards for the Bulldogs.

“Jackie is our best player, there is no secret about that,” Blanch stated.  “Our job is to not be one dimensional.  We have to have people around her that know what to do when she can’t get the ball or she is not having a good shooting night.  She’s a great player, a great leader, and a great person.  But I don’t want her to feel that she has to do it all.”

The Bulldogs defense kept the Cardinals off-balance most of the night as they methodically pulled away from the Cardinals through the first three quarters.  The Bulldogs held a 13-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, and then built a 14-point, 28-14 lead at halftime.

“It took them (Canfield) awhile to adjust to what we were doing.  We kept changing things up so that they couldn’t get comfortable.  They adjusted well as the game went on, but our defense is our backbone.  It’s what we pride ourselves on,” Blanch said.

Grisdale added, “We love playing defense because it’s one of the times we can trust each other.  We know we are going to make our rotations.  We like turning defense into offense, which you saw (tonight).  We work on it a lot in practice.”

The Cardinals Marissa Ieraci knocked down a three to begin the second half to cut the deficit to 11 at 28-17, but the Bulldogs quickly regained the momentum as they went on an 8-2 run to grab a 36-19 at the 4:44 mark following a basket and free throw by Grisdale.  The Bulldogs held a 39-24 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Grisdale would knock down two three-pointers and a free throw to push the Bulldogs lead to a game-high 22-points at 46-24 with only 6:20 remaining in the contest.  The Cardinals would show great pride as they battled to the end of the game, going on a 14-2 run to close the contest down to the final 10-point final margin.

Grace Mangapora would lead the Cardinals on the night with 13 points while Marissa Ieraci and Summer Sammarone each tallied 8.  Ieraci would knock two treys on the night for the Cardinals.

“The first time I think we got every fifty-fifty ball and I think we played a little tougher.  I think the exact opposite happened tonight,” Reel explained.  “They got to every loose ball, they got every rebound that they got their hands on.  They were aggressive the first eighteen minutes until we finally started playing like we have all year.”

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