The 2012-2013 season for the Fitch girls basketball team did not start out quite as planned by everyone involved in that program.
Visiting Cardinal Mooney moved out to a 12-9 lead after one period of play in both school's season opener and all of those in attendance in Austintown who planned on watching one of the best Lady Falcons squads in years had to wait a while. Well, actually they had to wait exactly eight minutes.
After that slow first quarter, the Falcons picked up steam in the second and outscored the Lady Cardinals 54-25 the rest of the way for a comfortable 63-37 opening night victory on Nov. 26.
"I think Mooney came out in a zone and that took us away from running," explained Fitch head coach Stacie Cepin. "We then settled down and started to hit a few shots."
Senior Brenda Thompson took the first shot at cutting into Mooney's lead and came away with three points to tie the score at 12 early in the second. Junior Megan Sefcik then stuck a dagger in the Cardinals' hearts by nailing three of her four three-pointers on the night to give Fitch a 26-20-halftime lead. A 13-0 run by the home team in the second half sent the Falcons to 1-0. The combination of Sefcik and Thompson should be one that all eyes in the area should be affixed to all winter.
"We expect great numbers from Brenda and Megan," admitted Cepin.
That duo's numbers last Monday night were 27 points for Sefcik with four triples and 11 points for Thompson with a trio of three-pointers.
What makes this Falcons bunch more dangerous than in the recent past is their ability to get big games from a few other people as well.
"We have lots of options," Cepin said. "Our depth is a big factor for us."
One of those ladies who could add to Fitch's offensive fireworks this season is super sophomore Aaliyah Sadler. Sadler slid in off the bench against Mooney and made 10 points. Although coach Cepin isn't inclined to tip off her team's future opponents, she did give fair warning about Aaliyah.
"(Sadler) is kind of a sneaky player," said the coach. "She stepped up (last Monday) and had a big game. People should get to know her."
Coach Cepin got to know a lot more about her girls a couple nights later when they traveled to Jefferson for the second game of the season. Once again the Falcons started out slowly clinging to a two-point lead after one period. Then, just like in game one against Mooney, Fitch followed up the shaky start with a 13-0 run in the second stanza. Although Jefferson came back to within two points in the second half, huge three-pointers by Sarah Melfe and Sefcik refueled the Falcons offense. That outburst enabled the Falcons to come home with a 60-37 victory.
The biggest reason why the Falcons were able to stifle their hosts in the second was because of their suffocating defense. Full court pressure and a couple of blocked shots by Sefcik that spurred Falcon fast breaks helped to jilt Jefferson. The home team was also hounded into 22 turnovers.
"We like to pick people up full court to hurry their decisions and force them into mistakes," said Cepin.
It's no mistake that Sefcik is one of the strongest stars in this area. Besides her two rejections, the junior also had 17 points, 16 rebounds and six steals. Further illustrating Cepin's admittance of her team's depth was the fact that 10 of the 11 girls who got into the game scored. Cassie Custer aided the cause with 10 points and Sadler scored eight.
This Monday, the Falcons fly back home to host Girard. The Lady Indians played Fitch tough in last year's battle, so Cepin knows how hard beating them can be.
"Girard is a very solid program," Cepin said.
Gaining an advantage on Girard should come easy to the Falcons, however, if they continue to take care of the basketball. Fitch only turned the ball over eight times in the season opener and continued to protect the pumpkin at Jefferson. A continuation of that control should allow the Falcons to get even more comfortable as the meaty part of the schedule looms.
"Turning the ball over as little as we did is a great feat," Cepin exclaimed. "I'm pretty happy with that. Taking care of the basketball allows our offense to keep playing well."