A couple of tough losses gave the Fitch boys basketball team a bumpy beginning to the new calendar year.
Fitch was nailed at home by Niles, 44-37 on Jan. 4, then was upended by undefeated Uniontown Lake on the road 51-39 on Jan. 7. The two setbacks dropped Fitch to 2-7 overall and kept the team winless (0-3) in the Federal League. Although that record does not look appealing, it is not indicative of the way the Falcons have battled according to head coach Jason Baker.
“We were outscoring Lake at Lake,” said Baker. “We continue to play good defense. We are improving.”
Yes, Fitch has improved greatly, but just not enough yet to complete games. After taking a 9-4 lead at Lake in the first quarter, the Falcons watched the much more experienced home team outscore them 39-16 in quarters two and three. Fitch tried to stay in it in the final period, but its inability to hit big shots allowed the Blue Streaks to stay well ahead. Bad shooting at important spots in games have clipped the Falcons a lot this season.
“We haven’t finished plays,” Baker bemoaned. “We need to put the ball in the basket. We are working hard to improve on that.”
Dan Chepke did the most scoring for the Falcons last Friday with 11 points. Trevor Yacovone and Jonas Ballard each scored seven points.
Ballard would pace the Falcons with nine points against Niles, but a poor fourth period put Fitch in the loss column. The Red Dragons beat the Falcons 14-5 in the final eight minutes to pull away in the closely played contest. Fitch had identical 10-point quarters in the first half then edged the Red Dragons, 12-8 in the third quarter to take a 32-30 lead into the final frame. Unfortunately, that is when things fell apart for Fitch. Coach Baker again cited the lack of finishing plays as the largest reason for his team’s fourth-quarter debacle.
The Falcons will hope to keep battling when they play Cardinal Mooney and Canton GlenOak this week. Not only did Fitch hang with Niles and Lake in losses, but a win over Canfield on Dec. 27 on a last second shot by Dontrell Lawrence demonstrated that the Falcons are not far away from winning more games.
“We had that big win against Canfield,” Baker said. “That was important.”
It will also be important for Baker’s boys to set the pace of the game when they play a quick team like Mooney and an even faster team like GlenOak.
“We need to play at our speed,” explained Baker. “We must not play as fast as those teams want us to.”
Coach Baker may not wish for his team to play too fast, but he certainly would love to see it play more consistently.