If The Rock was a member of the Fitch boys basketball program, he would have grabbed the microphone after last Friday night's game in Howland, held it up high to his mouth and exclaimed, "Finally, the Falcons have come back to the win column!"
After seven miserable losses, when injuries to Falcons' players piled up higher than the remaining Christmas snow, Fitch fought off Howland 68-58 on Jan. 11. It may have been only the third win of the season for the Falcons, but to relieved head coach Brian Beany it was akin to reaching the Final Four.
"It was a good win for us," said Beany sounding hoarse and satisfied the morning after the game. "The kids were frustrated (with the losing streak) and were working hard."
A lot of those kids, however, were not the ones Beany was counting on to fill out his starting lineup when the season began. The largest injury felt by the Falcons was the one to starting point guard and team leader Jesse Driver who had tried to battle through pain for weeks. Without a completely healthy Driver, the Falcons were driven into the ground offensively. Well, Jesse was close to 100 percent last Friday and it showed when he hit Howland for a game-high 17 points.
"Having Jesse healthy was a huge difference," said Beany. "He runs the game for us, he scores, he passes."
There have been too many instances lately for the Falcons when only one person would have a good scoring night and the rest of the team was kept at bay. That didn't happen in Howland because the Falcons did something they haven't been doing much of since the start of the season. Fitch's shooters found the bottom of the basket.
"It was a matter of time," said Beany about his team's ability to make shots against Howland. "We got a lot of looks in previous games, but the shots weren't falling. (Against Howland) we had three kids in double figures."
Besides Driver, Austin Hogan and Quincy Higgins reached doubles with 16 and 15 points respectively. Receiving such a tremendous team effort was a welcomed sight for the sore eyes of Fitch's coach.
"Other kids have gotten healthy too," Beany said. "We haven't been getting a lot of contributions lately. A lot of kids have picked up varsity experience (thanks to filling in for injured players) so there are no excuses anymore."
At one point last Friday it seemed as if coach Beany would have to make another excuse why his boys lost another game. Howland held a 15-12 advantage after one quarter and carried all of the game's momentum. Fitch rallied in the second stanza with a 22-11 run to take the lead at halftime. The Tigers had a little fight left in them in the second half and, despite being down 17 at one point, rallied back to almost tie the visitors. The way the Falcons handled themselves after almost blowing their big lead really impressed their boss.
"The kids really regrouped after Howland made their run," Beany said proudly. "We hope to use the momentum we gained as a springboard for the rest of the season. We got on a run last year after a win at Howland and we hope to do the same this year."
Fitch's next two games will be at home against Jefferson on Jan. 15 and Niles on Jan. 18. A humongous road test will be at Poland on Jan. 25. The Bulldogs are battling for the All American American Tier title and will be in an ornery mood since they lost their first game of the year to Canfield last weekend.
At the start of the new calendar year, coach Beany handed his team a card with the Falcons' schedule on it. He covered the part of the card that showed all of Fitch's bad games in December and left visible the remaining games on the slate. His message was that this season can be divided into parts and the best is still yet to come.
"This is not like football where you play just 10 games," Beany explained. "It's great because you can break the season into thirds. We need to start here (the Howland win) and go hard the rest of the season."