A three game winning streak to start the season had the Fitch boys basketball team primed for a showdown with rival Poland.
When the two schools squared off in Poland on Dec. 17, it seemed as if it was the Bulldogs who were most prepared. Poland played great defense, was successful at the foul line and hit its important shots in a 65-48 victory. Fitch fell to 3-1, both overall and in the All American Conference.
"We couldn't put the ball in the hoop," said Fitch coach Brian Beany. "(Poland) hit the shots we were missing."
Fitch's top star Jesse Driver was not missing many of his shots. Despite all the efforts of the Bulldogs defense, Driver still led his team in scoring with 20 points. As a team, however, the Falcons were foiled as they were held under 50 points for the first time this season. The Falcons shot just 34 percent from the floor, hitting more than 40 percent of their shots prior to the Poland game. While the Bulldogs were biting down on the Falcons defensively, Beany's boys were disappointing on defense.
"We had some breakdowns on defense," Beany said. "The pace of the game was what Poland wanted. Jesse got his points but some of the other guys didn't step up."
Over their first three games, Fitch outscored its three foes by 35 points and twice scored above 70 points. Winning against Howland, Canfield and Niles in succession was due to the support Driver was getting.
"Jesse only averaged about 14 points those first three games," said Beany, "but we were getting good support from the supporting cast. Kids like Quincy Higgins and Mike Butcher had some big games and we absolutely expect the other kids to step up."
Butcher did some major stepping in the following game against Hubbard on Dec. 20. With the game against the visiting Eagles tied at 52 with 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Butcher shot a three-pointer. That allowed the Falcons to escape with a 55-52 victory. The home team led the upset-minded Eagles by as many as 11 points midway through the final frame, but watched as its lead dwindled away. Butcher would come away with 11 points for the game, but half of those came from behind the arc. Due to Fitch's win and Canfield's win over Poland, there is a three-way tie atop the All American Conference standings.
Fitch does not take the court again until Jan. 3 when it hosts Struthers.
"We'll take some time off to get some banged up kids healed," Beany said. "Once January starts it will be every Tuesday and Friday with three games in a week twice."