CANFIELD — The Howland girls basketball team suffered its first and only home loss of the season Jan. 10 to Canfield. The Tigers exacted a measure of revenge Saturday night with a 58-45 victory on the Cardinals’ home court.
In the first meeting, Canfield hustled its way through the first half until the shots began to fall in the second. Howland did not afford the Cardinals that luxury this time.
From the opening tip, the Tigers cleaned the glass and displayed much of the energy that propelled the Cardinals in their 53-45 win earlier in the year. But unlike the first matchup, Howland managed to build a considerable advantage heading into halftime.
In the final three minutes of the half, Howland controlled every facet of the game, forcing multiple turnovers and scoring quickly and often. The Tigers finished the half on a 15-4 run, stretching its lead to 36-22 at halftime.
Howland coach Aaron Pounds said the key to the second-quarter run was teamwork.
“Share the ball, share the ball — we’ve been preaching it. We’ve been begging the girls to play more as a team all the way around. And we did that tonight. And you see the results if we continue to share the ball, pass the ball and get each other open shots,” Pounds said.
The Cardinals’ shooting didn’t catch fire like the first game against Howland, and they were never able to get any closer than nine points in the second half. Both teams subbed out all of their starters with several minutes remaining with the game well in hand for the Tigers.
Howland senior Alyssa Massucci was the star of the night, finishing with a game-high 20 points.
Both coaches were complimentary of her performance and impact on the game.
“Massucci missed some shots up there (in Howland) that she normally makes. Tonight, she didn’t miss them. And that’s a big deal,” Canfield Head Coach Matt Reel said. “When she gets going — and we gave her a couple early two-point shots that were easy — and once she sees that, I think the hoop looks a lot bigger. She’s a tough cover no matter what.”
Pounds said his favorite play by Massucci on Saturday wasn’t one of her three three-pointers; it was a pass.
“The biggest play that ‘Suc did that stands out to me; end of the quarter, she drove in, they collapsed, she kicked out to Sophia Powell for three. That, to me, is her best play of the game,” Pounds said.
Reel, who said his team wasn’t as “fresh” as Howland after the Cardinals suffered a double-overtime loss to Boardman last Saturday and beat Austintown Fitch on Wednesday, admitted his team was thoroughly outplayed by the Tigers.
“I just thought they were the better team tonight. They beat us in every facet of the game, and they are capable of that. I know they haven’t done that a ton this year, but they put it all together tonight and got some easy baskets. We couldn’t throw it into the ocean there for a while. And defensively, we didn’t we didn’t do what we wanted to do but that was mostly because they were excellent tonight,” Reel said.
After the loss to Canfield on Jan. 10, Pounds said he was going to rethink how the Tigers practice and incorporate more live play and fewer drills. After a dominant win in Canfield on Saturday, he said the change is paying off.
“The girls are more intense. We’re more conditioned because we get after it and these girls are all competitors. I got to give a lot of credit to our six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 players that come in there. I tell them after every game — win or loss — ‘go out there and beat each other up.’ The hardest thing for a coach to do is to try to recreate game intensity during practice. If you can’t go hard and you can’t make your teammate better by showing her what it’s like to go against somebody playing intense defense, we’re not going to get any better. So all these girls, my JV girls, getting after my varsity, it’s making us better.”
Riding a three-game win streak, Howland (13-4, 3-2) hosts Austintown Fitch in an All-American Conference matchup Wednesday.
Canfield (10-7, 3-4) will try to avoid losing three of four when it visits Ursuline on Monday.
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