POLAND - Marco DeLorenzo is quickly building his reputation as one of the top defenders in the area.
Friday night he only enhanced that title by limiting Jacob Wolfe, Poland's leading scorer, to five points.
But equally important was the fact that the senior demonstrated he was not a one-trick pony. DeLorenzo scored 11 of his game-high 15 points in the third quarter to help his team to a six-point advantage despite the fact the Bulldogs shot 75 percent from the field in the frame. Disheartened and disheveled, Poland was no match for the Cardinals down the stretch as the visitors emerged with a 54-35 victory in front of a raucous, playoff-like crowd.
"We don't need him to score," Canfield coach Todd Muckleroy said. "But it's nice when he decides he's going to. He always plays a solid defensive game. But to have him hit those 3s really catapulted us."
Canfield (9-1) won its ninth-straight game after a season-opening loss to Uniontown Lake. The Cards are 5-0 in the All-American Conference, American Division. Poland suffered its first loss of the season, dropping to 9-1, 4-1.
"I'm really disappointed," Poland coach Ken Grisdale said. "We made more mental mistakes in that game than in the first nine games combined. But give Canfield a ton of credit. They came to kick our (butts) and they did."
Early on it looked like the butt-kicking would go the other way. The Bulldogs raced out to an 8-0 lead and it could have been much worse. Poland had several empty possessions that could have blown the game open early.
By quarter's end the Cards were within 10-8 and their in-your-face, man-to-man defense had begun to assert itself. By halftime, the visitors had taken a 17-15 lead and Poland looked like a tired team.
It was difficult to pick what was most impressive for Canfield, holding Poland to 35 points, winning by 19, or keeping Wolfe to a season-low output.
"I would say holding them to 35," Muckleroy said. "Our kids take a lot of pride in their defense. They're finally starting to believe that you can win with defense, even after we fell behind at the start."
When Poland got shots in the third quarter it made the most of it. But the problem all night was trying to get them against the Cards' defense. The Bulldogs had 24 turnovers on the night including seven in the quarter. DeLorenzo closed out the scoring by nailing a 3-pointer from the right wing with three seconds remaining.
"The DeLorenzo kid did a great job on (Wolfe)," Grisdale said. "Then he goes out in the third quarter, and hits three threes. Those were daggers."
Still very much within striking reach, it wouldn't take the Bulldogs long to get out of it. The fourth quarter began with consecutive buckets by John Schiraldi and DeLorenzo, and Canfield methodically pulled away from that point.
"It was big," DeLorenzo said of his third-quarter offensive output. "We just try to work as a team, spread people out, and tonight was my night. I pride myself (in good defense). I have done that for two years. I just try to outwork every player I play against."
Grisdale's biggest issue was that he felt the Cardinals outworked his team all night.
"They were awesome; they did a great job," he said of Canfield. "But we cowered to it. I hadn't seen that out of our kids. I hope it was a mirage. We have to get back to work and make sure they understand we're not going to accept poor execution and lazy play."
DeLorenzo was the only player in double figures for either team. He also added three steals and two assists. Andrew Midgley had eight points and Jarret Vrabel pulled down six rebounds for the winners. Kevin White paced Poland with nine points while Wolfe led his team with 12 rebounds and five assists.