By Doug Chapin
The Falcons (2-12, 0-6 Federal) trailed by seven, then found themselves behind at halftime, 30-17.
AUSTINTOWN — It had all the makings of a Friday night blowout.
The struggling Fitch Falcons entertained powerful Jackson High, with a glittering 9-3 record and two post players standing 6-foot-6 or taller, in a Federal League boys basketball contest.
And though the Polar Bears headed west on Interstate 76 with a 73-49 triumph, it took an 11-0 third-quarter run to finally pull away from the pesky Falcons.
“They are very good,” Fitch coach Roger Day said about the Bears. “They’re very athletic, they’ve got some good post guys. They’re a very good basketball team.”
Jackson big men Mark Henninger (14 points, eight rebounds) and Josh Egner (17 points, five rebounds) are the real deal. They both have strength, shooting touch, athleticism and a good feel for how to play on the low post.
Defensively, their presence allows the Polar Bears to play aggressively — very aggressively — on the perimeter. Jackson pressured the Falcons’ ball handlers throughout, forcing 30 Fitch turnovers.
Fitch (2-12, 0-6 Federal) trailed by just 20-13 midway through the second period, but found itself behind 30-17 at the half.
However, DeAndre Richardson scored four of his team-high 14 points in the first minute of the third quarter to trim the Falcons’ deficit to single figures, 30-21. Three minutes later the Polar Bears (10-3, 5-1 Federal) led 41-21.
“We had some self-inflicted problems in the first half,” Day said. “We had 19 turnovers in the half. We’ve got to take better care of the basketball. Some of those turnovers, if we score buckets instead of turning it over, then maybe it’s a little closer at halftime.
“We came out, scored the first four points of the second half, then they took off on a little run. But I’m proud of my kids, they played hard and busted their butts. It was a great effort and I know they are going to keep working.”
Seniors John Williams (12 points, five blocked shots) and Eric Braxton (11 points, four steals) supported Richardson.
“The last four games we’ve been right there, we just have to find a way to get one,” Day said. “This [Jackson] was obviously a very, very good basketball team. But I was proud of the way the kids competed, they got after it. Like I told them after the game, if they keep working and doing the right things, then we’re going to get some wins.”