Harding has to hold off Falcons
Fitch made a run at the sixth- ranked Raiders.
By DOUG CHAPIN
WARREN -- The Warren Harding High basketball team held Austintown Fitch to two points in the second quarter, scored 25 points in the third quarter and held off a rally down the stretch to beat the stubborn Falcons 64-55 Tuesday in a Steel Valley Conference game.
"We can fly with the eagles or grind it out with the worms," Coach Frank Bubba said of his Raiders' ability to respond to whatever style of game they face on a given night.
"We don't get enough credit for being a strong defensive club," he said. "These kids are outstanding defensively."
No moral win: As for Fitch, you can forget about crediting the Falcons with a moral victory for staying close to Ohio's sixth-ranked Division I team. Coach Gary Conroy will have none of that.
"At halftime and even before the game we talked about coming here to win," Conroy said. "We're not in it for moral victories.
"If we play well and things go well for us we can win, whether it's against the sixth-ranked team, the 20th-ranked team or the 100th-ranked team," Conroy said.
Kevin Johnson led the Falcons (6-4, 0-2) with 26 points. Greg Mayes and Rob Patzak added 10 points each.
Fitch played most of the game without starting point guard Terrel Eargle, who suffered a bruised foot last week.
Harding (10-1, 3-0) got good balance as Danny Stella and Prescott Burgess scored 17 points each and Ethan Banks added 16.
Fitch started strong, opening a 15-9 lead with 2:34 left in the first quarter, then the Harding defense clamped down.
The Falcons got another free throw late in the quarter then scored just one field goal in the second frame.
Though the Raiders scored only nine points themselves in the quarter, they gained control of the game.
"Harding changed defenses some in the second quarter and that makes people stop and think and it slows them down," Conroy said. "That is magnified when you have people playing out of position like we did because of Eargle's injury."
Third quarter rally: Harding then went on the offensive, reeling off an 11-2 run to start the third quarter. Suddenly, the Raiders were ahead 34-20 with 5:32 left in the frame.
Fitch closed to within 10 points, but the lead was 48-33 at the end of the quarter after a Burgess putback at the buzzer off a missed free throw.
"I don't know of anyone who scouts or prepares for us as well as Gary Conroy," Bubba said. "They came out early and established what they wanted to do and then they hung tough throughout. That's a tribute to them."
The Falcons certainly did hang tough. Fitch quickly cut the lead to 10 early in the final quarter and got within six, 55-49, with 2:04 remaining on a basket by Patzak.
But Burgess scored for the Raiders and Stella converted a steal into a basket to extend the advantage back to 10 with just over a minute to play.
"We'll gain some confidence from this game, the kids saw we can play head to head with them," Conroy said.
Good shooting: Both teams shot well, but Harding took more shots. The Raiders were 28-of-57 from the field, while Fitch was 21-of-40. The Falcons were 10-of-13 at the line.
Much of the game was played above the rim where Burgess grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots and Shelby Chaney added eight boards and three blocks for Harding.
Fitch's Mayes had 10 rebounds and three blocks and Johnson totaled eight boards and two blocked shots.