Fitch’s boys basketball team remained winless in the Federal League when it fell to league leader Massillon Jackson 72-34 on Feb. 4 in Austintown.
That loss was Fitch’s (3-12/0-7) fifth in a row with four of those setbacks at the hands of conference rivals.
The Falcons held their own in the first period against the 6-1 first place Polar Bears. Sure, Jackson took a 10-9 lead over the Falcons after the first quarter, but it did not look like the Massillon kids had brought its “A” game with them to Austintown. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they never were really able to take advantage of that lethargy. Fitch never scored in double figures in any of the four quarters of the game. Down 29-17 heading into the third quarter, Jackson jump started its second half by going on a 15-2 run. That run enabled the Polar Bears to freeze out the Falcons 28-9 in the third period. That also turned an otherwise inspiring outing by Fitch into a blowout loss.
“We played a really good first half,” said second year Fitch head coach Jason Baker over the phone.
“We didn’t shoot too well, but we played well.”
The bad shooting escalated later in the game and allowed the Polar Bears to flex their Federal muscles in front of the partisan Fitch crowd. Jackson’s ability to push on the gas when it needed to really impressed coach Baker.
“(Jackson) is a really good basketball team,” he said admiringly. “They do everything they need to do to win. They will be tough to beat in the tournament.”
The tournament Baker was referring to was the annual Federal League round robin that began this past Tuesday. Fitch entered the tourney as the bottom seed so its first game was against top seeded Jackson in Massillon. Getting the league’s best team twice in five nights may sour some coaches, but Baker sees it as a great opportunity for his club.
“It’s good because we have recent film on them,” the coach said a day prior to that contest. “We know what they want to do. We know we will have to handle their pressure. We know we will have play well for four quarters.”
Baker’s bunch will also have to do better putting the ball in the basket. Fitch only hit five of 16 three-point attempts in last Friday’s game against Jackson with top scorers Jonas Ballard and Dan Chepke combining to miss 14 of 18 shots from the field. Ballard did lead Fitch with nine points while Chepke checked in with only four. Trevor Yacovone scored eight points in last Friday’s loss. Of course, lack of offense at times is just one of the things the Falcons have to get used to as they attempt to gain the necessary experience to battle better opponents on a nightly basis.
“We have to get better each week,” Baker bellowed. “We are in the process of building a program here so we have to stick together.”
Fitch will try to stick it to either Massillon Perry or North Canton Hoover in the team’s second round Federal Tournament game this Friday. Heading into their final Federal season, the Falcons set a goal to steal at least one league win. Not having that win so far has put some pressure on Baker’s boys this week.
“We want to compete in the (Federal) tournament,” Baker announced. “We have showed at times this year that we can compete. We are running out of time to get a win in the Federal before we leave the league. We hope we can get one in this tournament.”
If the Falcons are unsuccessful in the Federal playoffs they still have the district tournament in front of them to pick up wins that would salvage their season. The drawing for the districts takes place on Feb. 13.