Whenever an inexperience basketball team like Austintown Fitch falls behind big against a conference foe on the road, it is usually too difficult a task to bounce back.
That is exactly what happened to the Falcons on Jan. 21 at archrival Boardman. The Spartans came out smoking on that single-digit wind chill night scoring the first 12 points of the contest and before anybody could get their considerably cold bodies warmed up inside the heated Boardman gymnasium. That lead was upped to 13 points at halftime, but the Falcons showed signs of life in the third period and went on a 20-12 run. The visitors were able to close to within five points of the lead in the final frame, but despite that last ditch effort, a 14-7 run by Boardman allowed the home team to secure its first Federal League victory. Fitch is now 0-5 in the loop (3-9 overall).
Second year Fitch head coach Jason Baker cited Boardman’s bullying defensive strategy in the first quarter as a reason why his kids could not compete early in the game.
“(Boardman) came out and pressed us and we were not able to handle that pressure,” said Baker.
When Fitch was able to break the press, it was able to start putting the ball in the basket. A lot of those second half scoring opportunities could be attributed to the Falcons’ work on the glass.
“We rebounded better (in the second half),” Baker noted. “We have been a good rebounding team. That helps us (offensively).”
Jonas Ballard fueled Fitch’s offense and its attempted comeback by scoring eight of his team-high 15 points in the third period. Ballard also connected on three three-point attempts. Dan Chepke checked in with 13 points for Fitch. That duo has pretty much been the Fitch offense since day one this year and while it has been a pleasure to watch these two upperclassmen flourish, it would be fantastic if another Falcon could step up as well. Don’t forget that Dwyane Wade is great alone, but with LeBron and Chris Bosh that trio is the talk of the NBA.
“Ballard and Chepke have been scoring all the points,” said Baker. “They have been great, but we need a third scorer to help carry the load.”
Ballard was once again the leading scorer in Fitch’s Jan. 14 game against Canton GlenOak with 19 points. Chepke was right behind him with 17 points. Neither of those nice games helped much, however, as Fitch was gassed by GlenOak, 81-49. Once again the Falcons were foiled by a huge first quarter by their opponent. The Eagles took a 26-14 lead after one period then built a 16 point advantage at halftime. This time there would be no third quarter magic for the Falcons as GlenOak outdistanced them by 9 points in the third then 15-8 in the fourth period. Not only were the Falcons clipped on the scoreboard, but they were also outrebounded by the bigger Eagles 29-16. Nick Williams did contribute 8 points in the loss so perhaps the junior can fill the third scorer void that Baker so badly yearns for.
Coach Baker also wishes that his boys could start playing 32 full minutes per night. The mood around the Fitch locker room is upbeat because the team is competing, but in order to make waves the rest of the this season, the Falcons will have to do more for four periods than they did against GlenOak and Boardman.
“We put two good quarters together (in the last two games),” said Baker, “but to win in the Federal League you have to play well for four quarters. These kids do try hard and want to win.”
The Fitch kids will get another chance to win in the Federal this Friday against Massillon Perry. Hudson comes to Austintown one day later to give Baker’s boys a non-league battle.