After six games the Fitch girls basketball team stood perfect at 6-0.
Still, the Lady Falcons were in search of a signature win to cement their status as contenders for the All American Red Tier title. Perhaps that valiant victory would come against league favorite Canfield on Dec. 17 at home. The Lady Cardinals came to Austintown winners of back-to-back games after suffering their only loss of the young season to West Branch. With so many seasoned upperclassmen on their roster, the Cardinals were certainly not going to crack under the pressure of playing a formidable Fitch unit on the road. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Canfield's kids indeed proved why they are the team to beat in the Red Tier.
Canfield led from start to finish as it handed the Falcons their first loss of the year, 57-52. Three Cardinals collected double-digit points in the decision. About the only moral victory for the home team was that junior Megan Sefcik won the scoring battle with Canfield senior Sabrina Mangapora in a showdown of two of the league's biggest superstars. Sefcik scored 23 points to lead all scorers while Mangapora poured in 22. Sensational sophomore Aaliyah Sadler scored 11 points for Fitch.
Photos by Emmett King, Town Crier correspondent
Megan Sefcik splits two Cardinal defenders as the Lady Falcons hosted Canfield Monday night. The Cards came out on top, 57-53.
Despite suffering their first setback to start this week, the Falcons still played a pretty pair of games the previous week. Fitch won 58-26 at Hubbard on Dec. 13 to earn its first win in the conference and it was victorious in a non-league game at winless Warren Harding 64-38 on Dec. 10. Getting two lopsided road wins in a row had to make the loss to Canfield a little easier to swallow.
In the win in Warren, Fitch's defense kept the home team under 10 points in the first half as it built a crazy 29-9 halftime lead. The large lead allowed Fitch head coach Stacie Cepin the luxury of using some of her younger kids in the second half. Leading the way for the Lady Falcons at Harding was six-foot junior Paige McClendon who earned player of the game honors for dominating the second half of action.
Fellow junior Cassie Custer was called upon often in Fitch's win at Hubbard and she delivered mightily. Custer helped eliminate the Eagles with 14 points, nine rebounds, two steals and two assists. She also was part of a near perfect Fitch defense that never let Hubbard top 10 points in any period. The Falcons' defense was so ferocious they held Hubbard to just two points in period number three to take an insurmountable 52-17 lead with them into the final frame.
Fitch's ladies will need to duplicate those two defensive performances if they are to bounce back from their loss to Canfield. It won't be easy, however, as the 6-1 Falcons face off with 7-1 Poland on the road on Dec. 20. The Lady Bulldogs should be in a surly mood as well when the two schools meet because they will also be trying to bounce back from their first defeat this year at the hands of Howland this past Monday night.
Two days after Christmas, Fitch will have a showdown with 7-0 Struthers at home in yet another ridiculous Red Tier tussle. Playing a pair of games against league sisters who have combined for a 13-1 record illustrates how incredible this conference is and how it will take a near perfect rest of the season to come out on top.