Since starting in the Federal League eight seasons ago as a wide-eyed, upstart program, the Fitch girls basketball team has made huge advancements.
Fitch has ascended from treading water in games, to competing heavily, to winning some of those Federal contests. For Fitch to truly prove that it had turned the corner in the conference, however, it needed to pile up multiple league wins in one season. The Falcons’ victory over Massillon Jackson in early December was a good start, but it left the Fitch ladies hungry for more. Perhaps their appetite was satisfied some after a convincing 73-62 win over Canton GlenOak at home on Jan. 15. That win gave every Falcon fan in attendance a glimpse of the vast improvement made by their lady cagers. It also gave head coach Stacie Cepin a fuzzy feeling.
“I was pretty excited about (the win),” Cepin said last weekend.
Cepin was excited from the very beginning because her girls jumped out to a 14-8 lead after one quarter. That margin increased to 14 points at halftime thanks to a 25-point second period. The Falcons were able to explode for 39 points over the first and second period because the entire team did a great job against GlenOak’s defensive scheme. Four Falcons finished the game in double-digits.
“Everybody contributed in the first half,” mentioned Cepin. “(GlenOak) started with a zone and we attacked it well. We moved the ball around well.”
When the ball finally came to a stop in Fitch’s Megan Sefcik’s hands it usually ended up going through the basket. Sefcik shot down the Lady Eagles with 25 points. She hit two of Fitch’s seven three-pointers in the game. Opposing defenses have been clamping down on Fitch’s freshman as of late, but thanks to other Falcons finding their shooting touch, Sefcik was able to lead the way on Saturday. One of those other Falcon scorers was Anissa Hill who had three three-pointers en route to a 13-point effort. Erica Braxton also hit for 13 points. Mariah Snowden finished off the fantastic Fitch four in doubles with 10 points.
Fitch was able to get a good team scoring night as well two evenings earlier against Uniontown Lake. Balanced offense kept the local kids close through three quarters. The Falcons held one-point leads after one quarter and at halftime. Late in the third period, Fitch was ahead by six points and was staring another Federal League win in the face. That is when all things went into a ditch for Fitch. Lake outscored the Falcons 28-14 down the stretch, including a 24-14 advantage in the final period, to capture a 59-51 come-from-behind victory.
“We were in the game through the third quarter,” Cepin said. “We fell apart in the fourth. We let them make too many plays.”
Making the most plays for the Falcons was Erica Braxton, Sefcik and Hill who had 12, 12 and 11 points respectively. Marissa Mattozzi hit a pair of three-pointers to finish the night with six points.
Although the Falcons lost a lead versus Lake, the win over GlenOak proved to coach Cepin that her team’s 7-4 overall record is not a coincidence. Cepin thinks her girls deserve to get noticed on game nights because they put in a lot of hard work on non-game days.
“I like the way we are playing a lot,” Cepin said contently. “We are executing on both ends of the floor. That has to do with our intense practices. Those are some of the most intense practices I’ve ever been around.”
The coach hopes that practice continues to make perfect when the Lady Falcons take on Boardman Thursday night. The Lady Spartans are struggling with just one win in the Federal League and are at 3-6 overall. With that in mind, this may be the season that Fitch is able to subdue the Spartans. That is something they haven’t done in a long, long time.
“It’s been 16 or 17 years since the Fitch girls beat Boardman,” Cepin said incredulously. “This would be a pivotal win for our program. Still, we are not taking them lightly. They are still Boardman.”
Not only is Thursday night’s game huge because crosstown rival Boardman is coming to Fitch’s gym, but it will also be the second straight “Think Pink” game in Austintown to advocate breast cancer awareness. All the girls will be wearing pink warm-ups and some will sport pink socks, wristbands and ribbons. All fans are encouraged to wear pink in support as well as take part in raffles. Coach Cepin has had her own fight with a different form of cancer so she knows that although Boardman is Fitch’s biggest opponent, cancer is everyone’s enemy.
“This is a great way to give back,” said Cepin seriously. “The game turned out great last year. The kids are so pumped to play this game.”