By CHRIS LARICK
Headed by the all-time leading basketball scorer in Ashtabula County high school history Diane Davis, the Ashtabula Panthers girls team had four girls players score 1,000 points or more.
Two of them, Davis and Eleanor Young, were on the same team. The third, Angela Miller, graduated in 1995, enjoying a career that ended in 1995, the year before Jessica Cancel took over as Ashtabula’s go-to girl.
Cancel eventually scored 1,169 points between 1996 and 1999, the second-highest in county history. She will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on Apr. 8.
Cancel began her organized career while in the seventh grade.
"I really did not have any interest in playing before then,” she said. "I would see my three brothers playing all the time, but my parents would not allow me to play with them because they played too physical. Also, because of my religion I was not allowed to wear pants and it was too hard to play in a skirt.”
Bill DelPrince and Frank Knudsen were Cancel’s early coaches. She praises them highly today.
“I love basketball today because of both of them,” Cancel said. “Not knowing much about the sport in the seventh grade, they taught me everything from lay-ups to how to hold the ball to shoot a free throw.”
When Cancel reached her freshman year, Roby Potts took over as her head coach.
"Roby Potts was awesome to me,” she said. “He pushed me to do better and not to give up even if we weren't winning. He was motivating and a good all-around coach."
While Cancel played varsity for four years, she had a variety of teammates. The ones she lists as closest to her included guards Kelly Hladek, Krista Parmigian, Mary Christian, Hall Miller, Marisol Cora and Patricia Noble and centers Maria Jones and Bessie Noble. Cancel played forward at 5-10 as a freshman and grew an inch by the time she was a senior.
“I was actually one of the tallest out of the bunch of girls,” she said.
The Panthers were only moderately successful during Cancel’s tenure there. As she recalls they finished two of four seasons over .500.
In one game against Harvey, Cancel set a personal high with around 43-46 points while making only three of 12 foul shots. In addition to her scoring, she averaged eight or nine rebounds per game.
As a four-year letter-winner, Cancel was honorable mention all-county and all-NEC as a freshman, then moved up to second-team status on those squads as a sophomore. In her junior and senior years she was first-team all-county and all-NEC in addition to being honorable mention All-Ohio. She was also MVP sat the Star Beacon Senior Classic and her team’s MVP.
Cancel also starred on the volleyball court for the Panthers, lettering all four-years. She was named honorable mention on the all-star teams as a freshman, second-team as a sophomore and first-team all county and all-NEC her junior and senior years. She was also Ashtabula’s MVP as a junior and shared that honor with Maria Jones as a senior.
As she neared graduation, Cancel was recruited by East Tennessee, Wilmington College and Mercyhurst.
“I decided on Mercyhurst because it was closer to home,” she said.
“I had a good experience the time I was there. I met some really nice girls there that i still keep in contact with. I wanted to become a high school math or Spanish teacher. I was there for almost a year before I tore my ACL and meniscus. I had surgery and decided to attend Kent State main campus one year and Kent State Ashtabula for two years. “
Since college, Cancel has had a varied work experience.
"I have done a few things.” she said. "I have been a shipping and receiving manager. I work as an export customer service specialist. Being bilingual it has been a good career for me.”
Cancel has an adopted daughter, Zoe Collazo, 14, in addition to biological children Angelo L. Collazo 13; Jasmine and Joselyn Collazo, 11; and Anthony Collazo, 9.
She keeps herself too busy to participate in any sports right now, though she admits to shooting around with her sons once in a while.
"I really do not have time for myself,” she said. “My life is work from 8 to 5, homework and attending my kids' sporting events which are a lot when you have five children that play sports or do other activities at school.”
Of her career, Cancel points out that (“I was not just a good athlete in high school. I maintained a 3.4 GPA. I enjoyed doing community service and helping the younger kids in their after-school activities.
"I want to give a huge thank you to Phil Garcia for allowing me to work during my four years of high school.”