After subduing Struthers a week earlier to snap a three-game losing streak, the Fitch girls basketball team was hoping to build on that win and regain some of the momentum it had built earlier this season.
That following game, however, was against All American Red Tier titan Howland on the Lady Tigers' home floor. While a Fitch win over the Tigers would be a watershed victory for the conference newcomer, every Falcon knew they would need a monumental performance to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for the Lady Falcons. Howland led from the start of the game and never relented as it flew past the Falcons 55-17 on Jan. 12. That loss by the Falcons forced them further into the depths of the Red Tier and marked their fourth setback in their last five outings.
"We were coming off a big win over Struthers," stated Fitch head coach Stacie Cepin a day after the game. "We thought we had some momentum (heading into the Howland game)."
All of that momentum was stifled early and often by the 10-1 Tigers. A beginning of score of 3-2 in favor of the home team was as close as the Falcons got all night. From that point Howland went on a 20-0 run and before Fitch could score again it was 33-4 in favor of the unbeaten (5-0) league leaders. Coach Cepin blamed the low scoring output partly on some internal problems and partly on the competition her team faced in Howland.
"It was a tough game for us," said Cepin. "We were in a funk and we were fighting through some injuries. Howland is a really good team though. They have two of the best players in the area."
The players Cepin was referring to are Erika Nites and Taylor Williams. Both of those seniors have shot down plenty of opponents in the past with their deadeye acumen from the floor and last Thursday was no different. Williams went for 11 points, 19 rebounds and 13 blocked shots before taking a breather, but although the scorebook belonged to her, the night belonged to Nites. The senior superstar scored 16 points total, but in the first period she surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for her career. Meanwhile, Fitch's own sharpshooter Megan Sefcik was silenced with just six points. Making things worse was she was Fitch's leading scorer last Thursday evening.
Despite the cruel way the Falcons were treated in hostile Howland, coach Cepin did recognize some ways in which her team may be more successful should it encounter the Tigers again.
"We haven't seen Howland a lot in the past like we have the other conference teams," explained Cepin. "I was encouraged from some of the things I saw. I think we can do well against them next time."
Before the Falcon girls play next time in the All American against Niles on Thursday, they got a chance to hone their skills in an event at Berlin Highland High School. That Martin Luther King Day shootout is one of the most prestigious in the state and showcases some of the biggest and best teams in Ohio. It is an invitation only event and Cepin was pumped to get one of those invites.
"This is a big deal for the program," said the coach on the eve of the event. "It will be nice to show off some of our talent in front of a lot of people."
Fitch drew Orrville for its game on Monday and some of the same problems that have been plaguing the Falcons recently reared their ugly heads again in that game. Orrville scored the first 11 points of the game and never looked back as it ousted Fitch, 55-39. After falling behind early Fitch did mount a comeback to pull to within four points, but Orrville never relinquished the lead and was able to pull away in the fourth period. Sefcik was one Falcon who showed off her tremendous talent scoring 20 points against the stiff competition. Even though her team came home empty handed, Cepin was still in awe of how the showcase was run.
"It was an awesome event," wrote the coach in a text after the game. "Our kids really enjoyed the atmosphere. Twenty teams and most of them will do damage in the tourney. What a fantastic showcase."