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Fitch beaten in Div. I opener



Published: Tue, February 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Falcons bowed out against Massillon, 71-50.

CANTON -- Massillon High's 13th victory of the season was far from a one-man effort.

Ricardo Wells gave a pretty good imitation of one, though, in the second quarter of the Tigers' 71-50 victory over Austintown Fitch in a Division I sectional tournament game Monday night at the Memorial Civic Center.

Before an announced crowd of 1,191, Wells pumped in 26 points, 10 of which came in succession in a key stretch of the first half, as the Tigers advanced to a sectional final Friday against rival and top seed Canton McKinley.

Massillon led 20-17 with 41/2 minutes remaining in the first half when Wells' personal run began. He finished with a three-point play at the 2:19 mark, giving the Tigers a 30-19 lead.

Massillon held a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game, save for about 11/2 minutes late in the second quarter. The Tigers held a 37-27 lead at the intermission.

"Seventeen points is a lot for us [in a quarter]," Fitch coach Gary Conroy said, "and they scored 23. We could not get in a game that was fast-paced. We did a pretty good job of getting it to that slow pace, but their players stepped up and played hard."

Forced 23 turnovers

While Wells provided the most obvious difference in the scorebook, it was also Massillon's overall quickness advantage -- forcing 23 turnovers -- that helped to end the Falcons' season at 10-11.

"They're very quick, they're deceivingly quick," Conroy said. "They just lay in wait for your pass and they're looking for that steal. They do a great job of trapping the ball, then their backside guys just finish it off."

Fitch was also put at a disadvantage when junior post man James Wallace got in foul trouble.

Wallace picked up his third foul late in the first half, and his fourth with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter and the Falcons trailing 45-28. By the time he returned, about 21/2 minutes later, the margin reached 20 points.

Conroy felt Wallace wasn't active as he needed to be on offense, either.

"We wanted him to move a little more inside, outside," he said, "but they put some pressure on our guards to trap, which made it tough to get it to that point."

Falcons battle back

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Gabe Morgan -- he had four treys and a team-high 14 points, and Tyran Eargle's layup, got the Falcons to 13 points of the lead, 52-39. It was still a 12-point game with three minutes remaining in the game, but Massillon ran off nine unanswered points -- five of them by Wells -- to push the margin above 20 points.

The Falcons did get solid play from their four starting seniors, Stas Cherney and Morgan in particular.

Cherney finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Eargle had 13 points and six rebounds.

Other top scorers

Michael Porrinni had 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals for the Tigers (13-8), who have won six of their last seven. Mario Edwards scored 12 points as Massillon shot 52.3 percent (23-of-44), held a 28-26 edge in rebounds and committed just 13 turnovers.

"We knew it was going to be a guard game," said Conroy, "and I was hoping they wouldn't shoot it as well here, but they stepped up and shot it pretty darn well."

Fitch was 15-of-38 from the floor (39.4 percent) -- the Falcons were only 6-for-22 in the second half.

"Our seniors stepped up and played tremendous," said Conroy. "We've played hard every game, we've been in most games. It just comes down to the skill here and there. That's been a tough situation for us all year."




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