You know that feeling you get when you stand in line at Cedar Point waiting impatiently for what seems like days to get on that new, incredible roller coaster?
When you finally get your turn at the ride all of that anticipation and excitement is then crushed in less than two minutes. That is exactly how the Fitch Lady Falcons must have felt this past weekend in Akron.
After a successful regular season that saw the ladies win 17 games and establish themselves as a team to watch out for in the Division I state tournament, the Falcons fell flat in the first round. Old rival Boardman upended Fitch, 52-42 on Saturday, Feb. 16 putting a halt to its once promising season in the opening game of the tourney.
"(The loss) was shocking," said Fitch head coach Stacie Cepin still disappointed a day after the game. "It's a hard pill to swallow. Anything can happen in the tournament, but I give a lot of credit to Boardman."
The sectional started unceremoniously for the Falcons as Boardman bounced out to a 17-8 first quarter lead. Fitch had started a lot of games slowly this season, however, but had shown an ability to make comebacks. Unfortunately, that wouldn't happen for the Falcons last Saturday. Despite edging the Spartans 6-5 in the second quarter to cut their deficit to eight at halftime, the favored Falcons could not keep that momentum moving in the third period. Boardman backed the Falcons further into a corner with a 14-11 advantage, which advanced its lead to double-digits. That 11-point lead was too much for the cold shooting Falcons to overcome.
"We didn't shoot very well," said Cepin. "Our guards were just 5-32 (shooting)."
One of those guards is sensational Megan Sefcik who was averaging more than 20 points per game entering the playoffs, but could only score nine against the Spartans. Although Sefcik's subpar scoring was not the sole reason for Fitch's failure versus the Spartans, it played a major factor.
"You certainly can't blame a loss on one person," Cepin explained. "Teams do a lot of special things defensively against Megan every game. Sometimes shots just don't fall."
The one Falcon who did have some shots fall in the loss was Cassie Custer who led the team with 14 points. Without the normal scoring of Sefcik and just nine from the usually reliable Sarah Melfe, Fitch found itself in a horrendous hole. Another loss suffered by the Falcons came off the court when super sophomore Aaliyah Sadler went down with a knee injury a few weeks ago. Her absence took plenty of power away from Fitch down the stretch.
"No doubt (Sadler's injury) hurt," Cepin lamented, "but every team goes through injuries. We definitely missed her. She was one of our best defenders and even after getting injured she was leading the All American Conference in field goal percentage."
Speaking of the All American Conference, the Falcons were fantastic against those rivals during the regular season. Only two losses to eventual champion Canfield separated Fitch from a perfect conference mark. That is why coach Cepin is setting her expectations high for next winter.
"I'm proud of what our program did this year," said the coach. "I'm optimistic for next year. That is why our goal for next year is to win the conference."
Cepin's confidence is warranted considering she will have the bulk of her roster back in 2013-2014. Sefcik and her 1,000 plus career points will be the main senior, but players like Custer and Melfe will be important contributors as well.
"(Melfe) had a great junior season offensively," Cepin said. "We knew she was always great on defense."
The other seniors-to-be in November will be key components Paige McClendon, Maura Bianco, Carlie Chepke and Alexandria Coe.
"We have a strong core coming back," said Cepin excitedly. "They worked so hard this year."
Of course, the problem with final games is that it also marks the ends of the careers of the graduating seniors. Although Fitch will only lose a trio of twelfth-graders, they will leave Austintown with high regards.
"This was my first full class," Cepin said softly. "They've been here since I started here. Brenda Thompson was a four-year starter at point guard. Brianna Edwards was a solid player. I've seen those two grow. Serina Colon came to us this year and is a great kid. Not being able to coach these seniors again makes me sad."
As sad as those graduations may make Cepin, there is one thing that has the Falcons' beaks smiling widely.
"At least we play Boardman the first game next year," Cepin exclaimed. "We'll be ready for them."