The Falcons turned the ball over 28 times in 53-38 loss to East Liverpool.
AUSTINTOWN-- East Liverpool High's defense created several scoring opportunities to begin the second half of Tuesday night's game, and the Potters went on to defeat Austintown Fitch, 53-38.
The Falcons set the tempo early in the contest, but 28 turnovers, including 15 in the second half, proved costly to Fitch.
The Falcons (8-6) trailed early, 7-5, but by Michael Brown, James Wallace and Stas Cherney gave them an 11-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
Fitch held the Potters to just 17 shot attempts in the first half, but mistakes began to take their toll.
The Falcons were still tied at 16-16 with 2:40 remaining in the half, but a basket by Roosevelt Kirby and a steal and layup from Andrew Bobalik gave the Potters a 20-16 lead at the half.
East Liverpool never lost that advantage. The Potters forced back-to-back turnovers and a 6-2 run made it 26-18.
The Falcons got to within 26-22 with just under four minutes remaining in the quarter, but the second of Brian Kreefer's three 3-pointers gave East Liverpool a 29-22 lead. The Potters' run was extended to 7-0 and a 33-22 lead on Kirby's tap in and a pair of Donnel Fallis free throws.
Fitch fought back from three different 14-point deficits, twice bringing the margin back to 10 and 11 points, but the Falcons were never able to get it under double digits.
East Liverpool (12-2) was led in scoring by Kreefer and Fallis, with 17 points each, and Kirby scored 10. The trio accounted for 44 of the Potters' 53 points.
Kreefer, a 6-foot-7 senior who averages 27 points and 15 rebounds per game, only had nine rebounds.
"Fitch worked the ball well limiting our offense, so we had to pick it up defensively in the second half to score," said Kreefer. "They did a good job of challenging me as they dropped people off on me in the paint. Whatever I did get tonight was earned."
Turnovers the key
"Fitch had a nice game plan as they were methodical in keeping us out of our running game to keep things very close, but our defense began to create turnovers that enabled us to pull away," said Potter coach Nick Aloi.
James Wallace, a 6-6 senior, had eight of Fitch's 14 field goals and finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
But it was a 28-13 turnover margin for East Liverpool that was the most telling statistic of all for Fitch.
"We did a good job early of controlling the tempo of the game and then in the second quarter we went to a different offense and it didn't work," said Falcons coach Gary Conroy.
"We went back to what we were doing, but their half-court trapping defense caused some key turnovers which allowed the game to get away."