Fitch capitalized on a 32-10 start fueled by Jason Aikens to hold off Mooney, 64-53.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- Jason Aikens of the Austintown Fitch High basketball team scored 13 points in the first quarter -- but never scored again.
Yet, his prolific start Friday proved to be the difference against Cardinal Mooney in a Steel Valley Conference game.
Powered by Aikens, and then Greg Mayes and Terrell Eargle, the Falcons catapulted to a 32-10 lead into the second quarter, then held off the Cardinals' comeback to emerge with a 64-53 victory at the Falcons' gym.
Coach Gary Conroy of Fitch (13-4, 4-2) said Aikens, who had three 3-point goals among his 13 points, came into the game in a scoring mode.
"He had 28 points Tuesday [in the win over Olmsted Falls] so it was almost a carryover for him," Conroy said. "When he has his confidence, there is no one better than him. He is pretty poised with his 3s. When he has time to shoot it, he will make it."
But Mooney's defense eventually adjusted to stop Aikens, who also hurt himself with fouls.
"He had four fouls in the third quarter," Conroy said. "He shut himself down. He got in foul trouble. He was on the bench and wasn't playing."
Mayes led Fitch with 17 points while Eargle and Mark Aikens added 15 each.
After Jason Aikens' quick start led Fitch to a 22-8 lead after one quarter, Mayes and Eargle combined for a 10-2 run to lift the Falcons ahead by 32-10, before the Cardinals rallied to cut the deficit to 36-21 at the half.
Jeff Hehr led Mooney with 18 points, including four 3-point goals, two of them aiding the second-quarter uprising; while Curtis Ingram added 13 points and Dave Zidian 12.
Conroy said Aikens also was effective defensively in limiting Ingram's offensive production.
Coach Nick Bellino of Mooney (13-3, 3-3) said his team used a zone defense to start the game, and that Fitch capitalized on it before it was changed.
"They had zone looks from the outside," Bellino said. "The 3s [against] our zone in the first quarter [hurt us]."
But Bellino said Ron Stoops did a good job guarding Jason Aikens in the third period.
Fitch has quickness
Bellino said Fitch's quickness was a factor in its strong start.
"They're quick off the dribble. We got in trouble all year with teams that are quick off the dribble," Bellino said. "That's quality guards they have. They have quickness and gave us trouble."
Led by Zidian's six points, Mooney managed to pull to within 43-34 with 2:55 left in the third quarter, but then Mark Aikens and Mayes keyed a 12-4 run with seven and five points, respectively, for a 55-39 advantage with about 3:00 left.