Fitch defense hangs tough before McKinley pulls away

By Doug Chapin

Will Mahone had 17 points for Fitch, which fell 64-44 in the Federal League contest.

AUSTINTOWN — Sometimes the final score does not tell the entire story.

Looking at the scoreboard after Fitch High’s 64-44 Federal League loss to Canton McKinley Friday night, one might think the Falcons were blown out.

That wasn’t the case, however. Fitch trailed just 49-39 before an 11-0 run by the Bulldogs, beginning with 4:46 left in the game, put the contest out of reach.

“I thought defensively tonight we played fantastic. I don’t think 20 points was indicative of how competitive this game was,” Fitch coach Jason Baker said. “Take away some silly unforced turnovers and some made free throws and we’re right in the game.”

The Falcons (0-3) trailed 16-10 after one quarter and were within 22-17 with 1:40 left in the first half. A late spurt had the visitors on top 27-17 at halftime, then McKinley (2-0) stretched the advantage to 40-25 with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter. Fitch put together one final run to pull within 44-35 at the end of the quarter.

“The thing that really stood out for me tonight was how hard our kids fought on the glass and on loose balls,” Baker said. “Every loose ball we had a guy diving on the floor. I think we came up with just about every 50-50 ball. Those are the little things that lead to big-time progress.”

Sophomore Will Mahone led Fitch in scoring with 17 points, including a 4-for-6 performance from 3-point range. DeAndre Richardson added 11 points. Terry Terrigno led the Falcons on the boards with eight rebounds against the Bulldogs‘ huge front line.

McKinley boasts seven players 6-foot-3 or taller and plays a physical, pressuring man-to-man defense. That constant pressure seemed to wear down the Falcons both on the floor and on the glass.

“When you play a team that’s so big and so physical and they put pressure on you, if you lose the slightest composure, things can snowball pretty quick,” Baker said. “I think you saw that tonight.”

The Bulldogs were led by senior guard Da’Onta Streeter with 19 points and Che Richardson with 14. Canton had a 38-26 edge in rebounding.

Though McKinley ended up shooting 43 percent (26-for-61) from the field, Fitch’s zone defense caused problems for the Bulldogs. Expect the Falcons to use both zone and man-to-man throughout the season.

“We want to switch defenses quite a bit,” Baker said. “Even our zone, it’s man-to-man principles. It’s something we’ll definitely use, I think we have to. I’m not a big zone guy at all, but I think we have to use it and I think we played it very well tonight.”

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