The female gang known as the Pink Ladies were a fictional outfit that infamously "ruled the school" in the movie "Grease."
At Austintown Fitch last Thursday night, a much more real group of girls in pink did something more important than their Rizzo-led fictional sisters ever accomplished at Rydell High. The Fitch Lady Falcons basketball team defeated their rivals from Poland, 46-25 while wearing pink uniforms symbolizing creast cancer awareness to all in attendance in Austintown. The success sustained by the Lady Falcons on the court was secondary to the success these annual "Think Pink Nights" have been at the school.
"Every year we look forward to (the 'Pink Game')," head coach Stacie Cepin, a cancer survivor herself said. "We've made it the biggest thing in the district. A lot of people got involved. I'm so proud of the Austintown family."
Photos by Emmett King, Town Crier correspondent
Cassie Custer powers her way inside against Poland. Custer led all scorers with 10 points against the Lady Dulldogs last week.
As far as the game itself was concerned, the Falcons were motivated from the outset and it showed. Fitch flattened its visitors from the start, allowing just two Poland points as it raced to a 17-2 first quarter lead. If Fitch's defense in the opening frame was fabulous, it was downright ridiculous in the second stanza when it held the Lady Bulldogs without a field goal and to just one made free throw. With Fitch ahead 26-3 it became garbage time earlier than anyone could have dreamed of.
The Falcons held the Bulldogs to just 32 points in a win earlier this season, but what the Fitch "D" did last Thursday night, holding Poland under 30 and causing 27 turnovers, was extraordinary. These Bulldogs, by the way, entered this game with 11 wins, so the defensive destruction by the Falcons was noteworthy. In a game that was filled with pink, the Falcons left the Bulldogs black and blue.
"Our defense may be the best that it's been the past couple of years," said Cepin. "Poland is a great program, but for us to come out like that was something to see. Everybody on our team came together."
Cassie Custer led Fitch's charge with 10 points. Aaliyah Sadler and Megan Sefcik stepped up next with nine points each. The balanced scoring was nice, but it was on the other side of the court where the Falcons left their mark.
"We like to apply a lot of pressure to create offensive opportunities," said Cepin. Stacie's squad continued its defensive roll a couple days later against Youngstown East. The game was played mid-afternoon, but it seemed as if the Lady Panthers were still sleeping securely in their lairs when the tipoff happened. Canfield pummeled the Panthers all afternoon en route to a 79-29 annihilation of East. The 29 points scored by Panthers was five less than they mustered in a home loss to the Falcons five nights earlier. Holding East to 53 points combined in two games is a testament to how terrific Fitch's defense has been all January.
"Our work ethic has been awesome," shouted Cepin. "One of our goals is to hold teams under 30 points and we've been doing that."
Meanwhile, Fitch's offense has been easily eclipsing that plateau and one of the reasons has been Megan Sefcik. Megan mangled the Panthers last weekend with 33 points. Incredibly, 29 of those tallies came in the first half when Sefcik sank shots as easily as tossing a wad of paper into a wastebasket. Megan made all but one of her attempts in the first two periods and who knows how many she would have made if coach Cepin didn't sit her (much to the mercy of the East defense) for most of the rest of the game.
"It was an amazing shooting display," Cepin marveled. "It may have been one of the best halves for a high school player that I've ever seen."
Sefcik and her mates will now embark on a string of three road games in one week. It will be the second such stretch for Cepin's club this month and they will hope to at least duplicate the two out of three wins they accomplished that time. A win in the first game will be important, but it won't be easy because it will come against conference-leading Canfield. To say the Lady Cardinals are on fire is to say that Justin Bieber can dance a little bit. Canfield has won 12 straight and are unbeaten in All American American Tier play. Fitch fell to its arch nemesis 57-52 at home a week before Christmas, but if there was a silver lining to that loss it was that it may have been the Cardinals' most difficult win this year. If Canfield wins the Jan. 24 showdown, it will clinch the conference crown. The Falcons will do everything in their power to foil Canfield's celebration plans.
"(Canfield's) the team to beat," Cepin said honestly. "We respect them for all their years of success. It will be a huge game for our program, but our kids are ready to go there and execute well."