The recently completed Federal League basketball tournament did not turn out the way the Fitch Falcons wanted it to.
Fitch head coach Jason Baker was looking at this tournament as one last attempt for his team to pick up a long-awaited conference victory and build some momentum for the upcoming Division I state tournament. What coach Baker received instead was three more league losses, including one to archrival Boardman Feb. 19, leaving the Falcons with a 0-10 league mark and a last place finish.
“It’s not the way we wanted it to end,” said Baker about the finale of the Federal tournament as well as Fitch’s last game ever in the Federal League.
The end came soon for Fitch in its 54-43 loss to Boardman at the Canton Civic Center. The Spartans came out of the gates smoking starting the contest with a 10-0 run. Boardman never fell behind from that opening moment, but things did get interesting in the fourth when the Falcons outscored the Spartans to slice their deficit to single digits.
“We cut the lead to six and just needed the ball to bounce our way, but we couldn’t get over the hump,” Baker bemoaned. “Our kids haven’t quit (all season) and didn’t quit (against Boardman).”
The Falcons indeed battled as hard as they could, but could never adjust to the Spartans’ suffocating defense. Jonas Ballard was one Falcon who was able to solve the Spartans defensive attack as he beat down Boardman with 18 points. Adam Nishimura and Dontrell Lawrence each scored eight points. Billy Price picked up seven points.
That same determination Fitch showed versus the Spartans was apparent throughout its tenure in the Federal League. Baker definitely wants his boys to keep that fighting spirit in its final two regular season games and in the district playoffs.
“We have to continue to practice hard and play hard,” he said. “It is good that we have a couple games to work things out before the districts.”
The two contests coach Baker was referring to was at Jefferson Area this past Tuesday and one at Youngstown East this coming Friday. On Monday, Feb. 28 the Falcons will fly to Solon for the district round game against Howland. Fitch lost 48-39 to the Tigers in the second game of the season, but Baker believes his team can hurt Howland if it corrects some small errors from that early December evening.
“We could have done better against (Howland) the first time,” Baker started, “but things didn’t bounce our way. Howland is an athletic team, but if we play a little differently we have a good chance.”
Should Fitch succeed in its second chance against the Tigers, it would advance to the district finals on March 4 to play Garfield Heights.