With the Fitch basketball team winless through three games this season something was needed to put a little spark in these young Falcons.
That something may have come this past Saturday at the Covelli Centre against West Side rival Chaney. The Falcons and Cowboys played in the opening game of the sixth annual Youngstown-Warren Holiday Basketball Classic at Covelli and although this game was far from the word classic used in the title, it was good enough for Fitch to come away with a 53-37 victory.
The win over the Cowboys put a plug in Fitch’s three-game losing streak to start the season. It also showed that these Falcons are a resilient bunch because they were manhandled by Federal League giant Canton McKinley, 72-28 on the road just one night earlier. McKinley scored 35 of the game’s first 50 points to end any doubt before the partisan Bulldog crowd had a chance to get in line at the concession stand for popcorn. Dan Chepke led all Falcons in scoring last Friday night with eight points.
Things were a lot closer on Dec. 7 when the Falcons visited Alliance. Fitch actually held a two-point advantage on the home team heading into the final period. That is when the Aviators took flight and proceeded to score 19 of the game’s final 30 points to pull out a come-from-behind 54-48 victory. Fitch was able to build the lead through three quarters behind the hot shooting hand of Jonas Ballard. The six-foot senior annoyed Alliance all evening with 24 points.
While Ballard and Chepke are names that are well known to the Fitch basketball faithful, the name Trevor Yacovone is one that all people in Austintown may want to start learning. Yacovone came off the bench in the season and home opener against Howland on Dec. 3 and scored five first-quarter points to give his team an 11-3 lead. Yacovone would finish the night with seven points total, but it was Howland’s Honorable Mention All-State selection from a year ago, T.J. Lanier, who stole the spotlight. Down 17-16 at halftime, Lanier triggered a Tiger comeback with 14 of his game-high 21 points in the second half helping Howland to a 48-39 victory.
Although the Falcons only won one game a season ago under first-year head coach Jason Baker, it was evident in three of the team’s first four games that there is a new sense of aggressiveness in Baker’s bunch. Gritty defense enabled Fitch to hold a good offensive team like Howland under 50 points and it also enabled the Falcons to hold Chaney under 40 in their first win. The biggest concern for Baker right now has to be turnovers as multiple miscues with the ball in their hands has directly led to Falcons’ opponents making easy baskets. A turnaround in the turnover margin and continued tenacious defense will help when Fitch hosts North Canton Hoover on Friday night. The Vikings will enter with a 2-0 record and 185 points scored in those two victories. Unlike Fitch, however, Hoover has yet to be tested in the Federal League this year.
Fitch’s second road game this season will be at Canfield a couple days after Christmas. A nice break between games should give coach Baker the extra time needed to improve his inexperienced group. The match against the equally inexperienced Cardinals may also provide the Falcons a chance at another non-conference win.