Fitch's boys basketball team was able to spring one upset in the Division I state tournament, but wasn't able to make it two.
The Falcons needed overtime to eliminate Howland, 70-67 on Tuesday, Feb. 26 in Alliance in a game that saw them make a miraculous comeback. That momentum from Tuesday night did not carry over to Saturday, unfortunately, as the Falcons fell to Green, 72-36 to end their season.
Although the loss to the near-perfect Bulldogs hurt within the Fitch family, it didn't come as a huge shock to most experts.
"We knew it would be a monumental task," said Fitch head coach Brian Beany the day after the defeat. "We knew (Green) was good. They were certainly the best team we've faced and could have easily been 22-0."
Green gathered all the momentum it would need over the first 16 minutes of the contest outscoring the local kids, 33-13. An equally dominating second half by the Bulldogs bounced Fitch from the postseason and got Green into the district semifinals. That is a place the Falcons hope to be next season.
"We wanted to win at least one game (in the tournament)," said Beany, "but we are not satisfied. Maybe we can get more next year."
At least the Falcons did get one last victory before the season ended in the tournament opener. Despite falling behind the Tigers by 18 points in the second half, Beany's boys battled back to within four points with a few seconds remaining. To complete the miracle comeback, Fitch would need a memorable shot by junior Jesse Driver. From the top of the key, Driver launched a three-point prayer that dropped through the net. That trey alone would not tie the game, but Driver must have gone to church the Sunday before because he was also fouled on the play setting up a four-point possibility. Driver's subsequent free throw tied the game and sent it into overtime. He then started the fifth frame by banging home another triple to launch Fitch's 10-7 overtime advantage.
"It was a crazy game," Beany stated. "At halftime I challenged (his kids) to be the team they are. I challenged Jesse personally. I told him he was a big-time player and he needed to have a big-time game. He got that look in his eyes in the second half."
Driver would score 17 points in the third period to end the night with a game-high 28. He will return next winter to try to help Fitch advance past the first round of the tournament. So will juniors Alex DiFrancesco and Quincy Higgins who each scored 12 points in the win over Howland. Junior Mike Butcher came off the bench to harass Howland too and may play a larger role in 2013-2014.
"(Butcher) came in and hit a couple big three's," explained Beany. "He did that a lot for us at the end of the year."
Austin Hogan and Gabe Chepke are two other underclassmen that will be relied on to enhance Fitch's offense next season. A lot of these players logged heavy minutes for the first time this season and should be even better in their senior seasons.
"We thrusted a lot of these kids into rolls before they were ready," Beany said. "Now this class should be ready next year. It will be the first time in a long time where we have all of our classes filled."
One class act that will be departing after this school year is senior Curtis Beverly. Beverly is the only Fitch senior who saw considerable court time this season and led the All American Conference in field goal percentage. After last Saturday's game he was commended for his season-long production.
"I thanked him for his commitment and effort," Beany said. "I made a point to the juniors that seasons go by so fast so they must take advantage of their opportunities (like Beverly did)."
The Falcons took advantage of a lot of opportunities this season and, if it wasn't for a bad stretch in December when most of the starting lineup was bitten by the injury bug, their overall record could have been much better than 10-14. That less than remarkable season mark didn't leave coach Beany too discouraged however.
"I can't complain," said the coach. "We had some good wins and we built consistency throughout the program."