When the Austintown Fitch girls basketball team took the court Feb. 27 in Alliance to play in the first round of the Division I state tournament not much was expected of them.
The Lady Falcons only had five wins coming into the tourney and were winless against Federal League opponents. Lo and behold, Fitch’s first foe in the playoffs was Federal League friend and league tournament champion Canton McKinley. So it came as little surprise when the 18-3 Lady Pups pummeled the Falcons, 76-30.
“(McKinley) is a very, very good team,” said Fitch head coach Stacie Cepin a day after the loss. “It was hard for us to play an outstanding team like McKinley (in the first round of the tournament). That is a team we would like to aspire to be like.”
McKinley aspired to end the game versus Fitch early and proved that when it scored 16 of the first 18 points of the game. Before the Falcons could rethink their game plan, the Pups put up 44 first-half points. Fitch trailed 44-14 at halftime and its season was essentially over.
Also finished were the high school careers of the three Falcon seniors. Byanca Henderson, Te’Anne Smith and Stephanie Berdis all played their final games last Saturday. Smith scored eight points in her finale, Henderson hit for six points and Berdis scored two points. Henderson was a force for Fitch all season as she led the team in scoring. For her efforts, Henderson was picked to the All-Federal League second team. Cepin told all the future graduates how proud she was of them after the game.
“I thanked all of the seniors,” Cepin announced. “They did a great job. I told them they would be welcomed back anytime.”
It was unfortunate that those twelfth-graders had to suffer through a 5-16 season in their last rodeo at Fitch, but the 2009-2010 season was one for the new coach to get acclimated to the program.
“It was a year of transition,” admitted Cepin. “I had to put in my system and philosophy. We saw improvements even though other people just saw wins and losses.”
While there may have been more losses than wins in Austintown this year, Cepin sees the next few seasons of Fitch ladies basketball in a positive light because of the foundation she has already laid in year one at the helm.
“We have a lot to build on next year,” she said excitedly. “We are building on earning respect and other coaches are noticing us. Also, our eighth grade team won a championship so there are more good young players on the way. I am thankful to all of our coaches from the varsity level down through the grade school level.”