On Jan. 3, the Fitch girls basketball team was looking to start the new calendar year a whole lot better than it ended the old one.
Fitch was hammered by Hudson, 73-54 on Dec. 29 for just its second loss of the season so the Lady Falcons were not in much of a partying mood for New Year's Eve. It looked as if the Falcons must have saved their fiesta for the following Thursday night when conference foe Howland came to town. Although it may not have been as exciting as the ball dropping in Times Square, the Falcons dropped ball after ball into the hoop as they rang up nearly 60 points in a 58-42 trouncing of the Lady Tigers. That win made Fitch 9-2 overall (4-1 in the league) and gave the team a 3-2 record in a brutal string of games dating back to Dec. 17.
"We had a tough stretch, but a good one," said head coach Stacie Cepin about games against Howland, Hudson, Struthers, Poland and Canfield. "Getting Hudson on the schedule was big for us and we handled ourselves well against them."
Cepin's club really handled themselves well against Howland even though it took a while for the Falcons to start flying. After an even first quarter, the Falcons went on a 15-5 run at the outset of the second stanza. Fitch's hot shooting continued into the second half and before anyone on the Tigers' bench realized what hit them, Canfield was cruising with a 16-point lead.
"We weren't satisfied with the way we started (against Howland)," said Cepin. "We kept getting better throughout the game."
As usual, junior Megan Sefcik proved to be the best player on the court last Thursday night torching the Tigers for 26 points and 11 rebounds. Also aiding Fitch's effort was six-foot junior Paige McClendon who hit for seven points continuing her strong play up front.
"(Paige) is playing well and stepping up for us," said Cepin proudly.
McClendon and Sefcik may both be juniors, but they have joined their three senior partners in providing something that stats can never justify.
"Our leadership has been really good," Cepin exclaimed. "Whenever we make mistakes the kids pick each other up. The kids are really hungry (to win)."
That hunger has also translated to the team's practice sessions. Coach Cepin cited competitive practices as a huge reason why her girls have done so well during the first half of the schedule. She would appreciate it if that intensity carries into the stretch run.
"We need to keep up our defensive pressure," Cepin admitted. "We also need to take care of the ball better. We have done well with that in our wins, but not in our two losses. We have to keep playing tough to get through our tough district."
Before the Falcons can worry about district playoff play, they must navigate through another month and a half of stern opposition. Fitch's next three games are on the road at Niles, Hudson and Youngstown East making the cold, long month of January even more bothersome. Getting a second crack at Hudson on Jan. 12 makes coach Cepin and her girls very excited.
"We are pumped to play (Hudson) again," shouted Cepin. "It will be a big test for us. We will change up some things (from the first game). We're looking forward to that game and the entire second half."