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Fitch girls basketball prepare to turn it around

November 27, 2009
By Nik Zirounis
Stacie Cepin enters her first year as head coach of the Fitch girls basketball team.

Cepin has a reputation for turning programs around, but that skill will definitely be put to the test this year in Austintown. The Falcons are coming off a six-win season that included a winless mark inside the rigorous Federal League. If you ask coach Cepin about last season, however, she does not say much.

“I wasn’t here last year so I don’t feel I should talk about it,” she said last week. “Last season was last season and we need to look to the future not from behind.”

The immediate future for Fitch begins Nov. 30 when the Falcons play Poland. The Federal League slate begins a week later with back-to-back games against Massillon Jackson and Canton McKinley. According to Cepin, that schedule is nothing more than something for the players to type into their Blackberries.

“We can only focus on ourselves,” said the coach. “If we keep worrying about the teams we are playing or the Federal League it will become overwhelming.”

Cepin’s attitude when it comes to her players is rather refreshing too.  Instead of rattling off a list of names that will suit up for the varsity this year, she stressed the togetherness of her team and the attitude she wishes the girls to gain.

“We are working hard in practice to have the girls buy hard into what we are teaching them,” said Cepin. “We want the kids to play hard and give a good effort. We want to focus on thinking like a team rather than be individuals.”

Although Cepin did not feel the need to call out players one by one, the coach did mention the core group of seniors who will be looked upon to provide stability to an otherwise young team. Byanca Henderson (a transfer from Cleveland), Te’Anne Smith, Torrie Emanuel and Stephanie Berdis are the quartet of twelfth-graders donning the red and blue this year. Cepin would love any of those four to step up and take control of the team, but at the moment she was noncommittal to picking one person.

“No captain has been named yet,” Cepin announced. “People are still earning that.”

As for a starting lineup, Stacie also remained silent.

“We are wide open as far as a lineup goes,” Cepin explained. “We have different people who do different things well.”

The people who may do the best this season for the Falcons are the ones who play in the backcourt. There may not be one star back there, but there is a bevy of ballers who can help Fitch win some games.

“We have good guards,” Cepin acknowledged. “We have some decent shooters. We won’t have anyone scoring 25 points per game, but we have some girls who are good spot-up shooters.”

In fact, Fitch possesses the rare trait of having a number of athletes who can play multiple positions. That is one advantage Cepin hopes to use against her opponents this year.

“We have so many different types of players,” said the coach. “It makes our offense hard to plan against.”

One thing that is in the new coach’s plans is for her team to play floor-to-floor defense. It doesn’t matter if there are shortcomings on the offensive end if your team keeps the other team from putting the ball in the basket.

“We are hoping to be strong on defense,” said Cepin. “We are working hard at it. Positioning on defense can kick start us on offense.”

That position will probably be a little slower than most fans of Fitch girls basketball are used to, but it can change as the season rolls along.

“We will probably play more half court than full court press,” Cepin said.  “We are still trying to find our identity.”

So far Fitch’s identity under coach Cepin has been a hard working; bring your lunch pail bunch. If the Falcons can stay grounded each day and not gaze down the season slate, everyone in Austintown will celebrate a female basketball renaissance.

“These kids put in a lot of work all summer,” said Cepin. “It’s been a lot of fun, but if we look too far ahead we’ll be in trouble.”

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