Poland remains unbeaten; Bulldogs down rival Canfield

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Poland 87, Canfield 72
When Poland came home after falling in last year’s state semifinal to
Upper Sandusky, Bulldogs head coach Ken Grisdale decided to bring back
the Upper Sandusky offense with him. The fast-paced, pressure style
has now taken Poland to a 12-0 start after defeating their arch-rival
and host Canfield 87-72 Friday. The stands were filled up before the JV contest


When Poland came home after falling in last year’s state semifinal to Upper Sandusky, Bulldogs head coach Ken Grisdale decided to bring back the Upper Sandusky offense with him. The fast-paced, pressure style has now taken Poland to a 12-0 start after defeating their arch-rival and host Canfield 87-72 Friday.

A sold out crowd came to see the unbeaten Bulldogs battle the once-beaten Cardinals. The stands were filled up before the JV contest began and the game-time atmosphere would be nearly impossible to match.

The game was setup to be a classic battle of offense versus defense, as Poland came in averaging nearly 90 points a game. Canfield was only giving up a little more then 40.

Poland however, was able to surpass the Cardinals’ season defensive average by halftime as the Bulldogs built up a 46-31 lead at the break, and cruised to victory in the second half. Poland put four players in double figures scoring, led by Sophomore Niko Fatimus with 19 points, while Senior leader Ben Umbel added 18.

Canfield was able to keep up with the up-tempo pace for a little more the quarter before Poland kicked things into high gear. With the Bulldogs holding on to a 28-24 lead midway through the second, Anthony DeFelice hit back-to-back three pointers to kick off a run of nine straight points, and a 18-7 run to end the first half. Just when it looked like Canfield could’ve weathered the storm, Fatimus hit his fourth three point shot of the first half at the buzzer to push the lead to 15. Poland as a team had twelve three pointers in the game.

Even with his team lighting up the scoreboard, Coach Grisdale believes the offense is not what drives his team. “It’s not the offense, it’s the defense,” said Grisdale. “Everything stems from the defense. We force teams to play faster and they make more mistakes that we turn into points.”

Poland forced 22 Canfield turnovers on the night, 16 coming in the first half alone.

The story was the same after halftime. Poland pulled away from the Cardinals in the third quarter outscoring them 25-13. Canfield was able to make a run in the fourth quarter, and although it was too little, too late, it gave Canfield some positive thoughts to build on for their next meeting, and gave Poland notice of things the seemingly invincible Bulldogs need to work on.

“We need to get better adjusting to different situations we face,” admitted Grisdale. “We turned the ball over way too many times. We didn’t play intelligently especially in the fourth quarter.”

Coach Grisdale believes that games like this one only helps to improve his team for their playoff push. “I think we’re getting better. You get better when you face things you haven’t seen,” said Grisdale. “(Canfield head coach) John Cullen put in some new press breakers that we haven’t seen before, that were working against us.”

Coach Cullen felt his team performed well against the press, but the Poland sharpshooters proved to be too much. “I think we did a good job at negating the pressure, but they shot the ball better then any game I’ve seen of them,” said Cullen. “They keep bringing fresh legs in and they shoot the ball. They had twelve threes, they get them off transition, and they get them off penetration.”

Canfield also was able to put four players in double figures led by Matt Keating who scored a game high 22 points, but the Cardinals couldn’t match the depth of Poland. Alongside the performances of Fatimus and Umbel, DeFelice and Luke Wollet had ten points apiece. Nine different Bulldogs entered the scoring column; eight of them scored five points or more.

Poland (12-0 7-0 MAC) with the win takes a one game lead over their rival in the race for the final Metro Athletic Conference title. The two teams will meet again in three weeks when the scene will shift to Poland’s home floor.

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