Fitch's participation in the Division I girls basketball tournament ended before it really ever got going.
The Lady Falcons were foiled 53-38 by Walsh Jesuit in Akron on Feb. 25 in their first game of the playoffs. That loss put an end to an up and down season by the upstart Fitch lady cagers. Fitch finished the season just one game above .500. and 5-5 in its first season inside the All American Conference Red Tier.
Losing in the sectional round of the tournament was not what Fitch head coach Stacie Cepin had in mind when this season started back in November, but the way her girls competed in defeat was uplifting.
"I am pretty proud of the effort," said Cepin over the phone. "We finally put together a great outing against a great team. We will learn a lot from this game. It will give us a lot of confidence."
Cepin's club looked chock full of confidence early in the contest last Saturday afternoon. Fitch was able to build a six-point lead on the 17-4 Lady Warriors thanks to a couple nice runs.
"That was the best we played early in a game all season" said Cepin. "We jumped out on them. We started out 4-0 then went on a 15-0 run."
Like any team that has lost only four times all year, Walsh Jesuit jumped back into the ballgame. The Lady Warriors righted themselves and kept close until taking the final lead in the fourth period. Some foul shots down the stretch turned the closely played contest into a lopsided looking score.
"(Walsh Jesuit) hung around," said Cepin "They are a great team."
After the game Walsh head coach Pete Zaccari told Cepin he thought her team was pretty great too.
"During the (handshake) line their coach told us he thought we were one of the toughest teams we played this year," Cepin announced proudly. "That was a huge compliment."
One of the reasons why the Lady Falcons played so tough against the wonderful Warriors was the strong play by sophomore Megan Sefcik. Sefcik, like she did most of the season, led all Falcons with 17 points. Knowing that Sefcik will be returning in 2012-2013 as well as important players such as Cassie Custer, Maura Bianco, Brenda Thompson, Briana Edwards, Aaliyah Sadler and Sarah Melfe puts the loss to Walsh Jesuit in better perspective. Thompson and Edwards will be seniors next season and will assume the all-important team leader role.
"Our juniors were great and will be great seniors next year," Cepin said. "We also have a great sophomore class and some freshmen who played significant minutes. This program is headed in the right direction. The kids are encouraged for next year."
Anissa Hill, who had 13 points to finish second in scoring last Saturday, is one of a quartet of seniors who will not be part of any future Fitch success. Losing this stalwart senior as well as Alexa Lynn, Amber Mims and Courtney Davenport saddens Cepin.
"They are all such phenomenal kids," Cepin said softly. "I thanked them (after the tournament game). They didn't get that huge win this year, but they finished with a winning record two years in a row and beat Boardman."
Indeed all four of those future Fitch graduates are special young ladies, but what Lynn did this season is remarkable. Lynn tore her ACL before the season started and, although she rehabbed rigorously and made it into a few games this year, for all intents and purposes her senior year was spent on the bench. That is where the twelfth-grader may have unexpectedly made the biggest impact on her team.
"Alexa was a great leader for us," said Cepin with authority. "She could have just given up, but she came to every practice and even got some limited minutes. She is a fantastic person. I attribute our winning season to her."
Hopefully, the returning Lady Falcons can use some of that same kind of courage to have another winning season in 2012-2013.