The Bulldogs played the role of a rude host to Austintown Fitch.
CANTON -- It was only a matter of time.
For two quarters, the Austintown Fitch High boys basketball team contained Canton McKinley's explosive offense. Spreading the floor on offense and blanketing the Bulldogs' outside shooters on defense, the Falcons trailed by just six points, 22-16, at halftime.
But Canton McKinley promptly erased any thoughts Fitch may have had in the way of an upset.
The Bulldogs opened the third quarter with a 15-2 run, including three slam dunks, and rolled to a 56-39 victory.
"We played very well for two quarters," said Fitch coach Gary Conroy. "But when you play McKinley, everyone knows that at some point they are going to make a big run. In that third quarter, it came and we just panicked."
Before the Falcons even knew what hit them, the Bulldogs were firing on all cylinders. McKinley (9-0, 3-0) changed from man-to-man pressure to a diamond press and that adjustment made a world of difference.
Taking advantage of multiple Fitch turnovers, the Bulldogs scored easy basket after easy basket. The big run included three dunks, which not only boosted McKinley's confidence, but changed the flow of the game.
"The dunk fuels their fire," said Conroy. "We talked about that before the game. We knew if we let them get into an NBA-style game, up and down the floor, then it would be difficult to stop them."
By the time the third quarter ended, Fitch trailed 48-25 after being outscored 26-9 in the eight-minute span.
Struggles on offense
Nothing came easy for Fitch on offense, either. The Falcons struggled to get the ball inside to freshman Damian Eargle, who was held to just eight points.
Conroy credited McKinley's strong guard play with denying the entry pass into the post.
"Their guards really pressured us and limited our touches inside," said Conroy. "But I think we did a good job running the four corners and got some easy baskets.
"We tried to play with the mindset of, 'If we have the ball, they can't score.' It worked for a while."
McKinley standout Raymar Morgan did the damage for the Bulldogs. The forward scored a game-high 24 points, including 10 at the free throw line.
James Wallace and Eargle led the Falcons with eight points each. Michael Brown and Ty Eargle each added seven.
Fitch's second straight loss dropped its record to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the Federal League. The Falcons will take on the league's co-leader, North Canton Hoover, (8-0, 3-0) on Friday.