Armed with a 15-0 record, the Lady Falcons basketball team marched into Boardman on Jan. 27 looking to slam dunk the six-win Lady Spartans and keep their hopes of a perfect regular season alive.
Boardman, however, has been about the only team this year to challenge the Fitch girls, losing by just two points on opening night. Monday's game was a nail-biter throughout as well, and when Fitch's Megan Sefcik missed a potential game-tying three-point basket in the waning seconds, the Spartans celebrated with a 52-49 upset victory.
"It's tough to win up there," said coach Stacie Cepin. "Every game we've played against (Boardman) since I've been here has been tough. (Boardman) had nothing to lose and played a great game."
Boardman bounced out to a 14-4 lead after the first quarter. The Falcon ladies lost 15 turnovers to Boardman.
"We like to value each possession," Cepin said. "We didn't do that. When you lose possessions, you lose opportunities to score."
Cepin's club started scoring in the second quarter and went on an 8-2 run, but Boardman battled back to stay ahead. Even when Fitch went on an 11-3 run in the fourth period, the Spartans stayed steady proving that it wasn't Fitch's night.
Sarah Melfe led the Falcons in scoring with 12 points and Cassie Custer had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sefcik settled for 10 points as well.
Despite the disheartening loss, Coach Cepin did find one silver lining.
"We will learn from this game," she said. "It will ready us for the tournament when its one and done."
Cepin's crew knew exactly what to do three nights later against Hubbard. Not allowing the loss to Boardman to affect them, the team pummeled the 1-15 Lady Eagles 78-16. Eleven different Fitch players got into the scorebook led by Sefcik, who ended the Eagles' hopes with 18 points. Melfe and Alexis Sallee each scored 11 points for the 16-1 Falcons.
"I'm proud how we bounced back," Cepin said. "We took control of the game and never let up. We need to continue to play that kind of basketball."
This next trio of games will go a long way in determining if the Falcons can stay in control like their coach wishes. A visit from 15-3 West Branch started the week for Fitch, and another visit from 17-1 Lakeview Monday will be a behemoth battle between two mighty playoff contenders. Stuck in the middle of that daunting doubleheader is a showdown with 12-4 Struthers to decide the All American Conference championship today. Fitch has clinched at least a share of the All American title, but a Fitch girls basketball team has not won a league crown in 20 years.
"(The Struthers game) is for the outright league title," said Cepin. "Our main goal was to win the league championship. We want this one, and we expect a great atmosphere."