The 45-42 loss left the Cards with their first sub-.500 season since the mid-'80s.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
CANFIELD -- The dejected look on the face of Canfield High senior Chase Booms told the story of the Cardinals' season.
Despite a game-high 17 points, Booms' team lost to backyard rival visiting Austintown Fitch 45-42 in a non-conference matchup Tuesday night.
The Cardinals (9-11) took the Falcons (11-8) to the wire before falling when a couple of 3-point shots by Canfield went awry in the final seconds.
The loss gave Canfield coach John Cullen his first losing season since the mid-'80s.
"We just can't get over the hump," Cullen said. "I know one thing -- we'll be the most dangerous 9-11 team in the tournament.
"Someone down the line is going to pay for this [losing season]."
Fitch's guard play: Austintown Fitch coach Gary Conroy has a 5-1 record against Cullen.
"This is always a great rivalry game," Conroy said, "and I mean that in a good, positive sense. These teams know each other well and you know its going to be a well-played game when we get together."
Fitch rode the play of its guards to overcome a Canfield defense that worked to shut down the Falcons' leading scorer, Greg Mayes.
Mayes, who averages over 16 points, was held to five.
"That obviously was our plan to shut down their bigger inside game," Cullen said. "Unfortunately some of their other guards did a good job of making some big plays down the stretch."
Fitch got big baskets from Shawn Barber and Jason Aikens to help hold off a furious fourth quarter rally by Canfield.
Patzak scores 14: Fitch senior Rob Patzak, who had 12 first-half points, hit two free throws with 16.7 seconds remaining in the game to give the Falcons a three-point lead. Patzak finished with 14 points.
"Our guards stepped up and shot the ball pretty well," Conroy said. "Rob [Patzak] really came out shooting well in the first half but Canfield wouldn't come out of that zone for nothing."
Fitch built a lead of seven points, 26-19, at halftime and again at 39-32 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Canfield rallied behind the shooting of Booms and sophomore Chad Baker. Baker scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half and made key baskets down the stretch.
Baker was able to get off a 3-point shot that missed the mark as the final buzzer sounded.
"It was a great game," Conroy said. "We need to keep playing well as we get ready for tournament play."