The sectional round of the Division I state tournament proved to be the final stop for the Fitch boys basketball team this season.
Fitch was mashed by higher seeded Canton McKinley 83-49 on March 2 at the Canton Civic Center to end the season 1-20. Although the Falcons were not fantastic on the floor and had to persevere through some tough off-the-court situations, the 2009-2010 season was not as bad as one may think.
“This season wasn’t a nightmare (like some people said),” announced head coach Jason Baker who just completed his first year at Fitch. “These kids never quit and got better and better (throughout the year). I was proud of their effort each and every day.”
Baker was still proud of his boys even though they were mauled by the Bulldogs in Canton. McKinley jumped on Fitch early and was able to maintain a large lead throughout the game due to some sick shooting. Fitch allowed three Bulldogs to reach double-digits in scoring and McKinley even had 18 assists. Meanwhile, McKinley’s defense harassed the local kids all evening forcing multiple turnovers and putting the Falcons in bad shooting situations. That is something Fitch’s coach was used to seeing against teams from Fitch’s conference.
“We played as hard as we could,” said Baker. “The Federal League is the best of the best. It is the best conference with the best athletes. We have a ways to go (to equal their competition).”
It is hurtful to admit, but it is very true that the Falcons must make becoming competitive in the conference their No. 1 priority. Fitch lost to McKinley twice this year by a combined 54 points. The Falcons finished in the Federal basement with a winless record and could not keep up with their opponents very well in most games. That is why it is so important for Baker and his bunch to gain knowledge of the fundamentals of basketball this offseason.
“Our goal is to lay the foundation (of a winning program),” said the coach. “Every day you have to learn. I talk to different coaches all the time (to get different perspectives).”
When Baker talks to other bench bosses he is proud to hear them discuss the dignity with which these Falcons played with all year. Losing athletic senior Terry Terrigno to injury was a major blow for the upstart Falcons. The departure of sensational sophomore scorer Will Mahone in the middle of the season was another tough pill for Baker and his kids to swallow. The Falcons who did stay on the squad showed courage not often seen from high school-aged kids. Fitch got some outstanding efforts all season from a couple of seniors who played their final game against McKinley. Senior DeAndre Richardson led the team in scoring, but was just as important to the club as a leader when Mahone then Terrigno left. Fellow senior Jahwuan Pete acted as the floor general and was a threat offensively. Unfortunately, that pair will be graduating this summer leaving the Fitch hoopsters even younger next winter. Thankfully, players like juniors Shane Stevens, Jonas Ballard, Ty Underwood and Adam Nishimura all saw significant court time this year. Add to that quartet promising sophomore Dan Chepke, who stepped up admirably late in the season, and the Falcons should have a solid nucleus in the future. Those kids know that under Baker they will at least learn how to give their all every night even if they fail to win a lot of ballgames.
“We will continue to strive to do our best,” said Baker. “We will always be prepared to play.”