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By Jim Flick
Trailing after one quarter, the Austintown Fitch High girls basketball team recovered to defeat Cardinal Mooney 67-52 on Wednesday night.
Fitch (6-3) was led by senior Erica Braxton, who came off the bench to score 23 points. Megan Sefcik, a freshman who also started the game on the bench, tallied 20 points, including two 3-pointers. Starter Mariah Snowden, a senior, added 19 points and added nine steals.
Mooney (4-6) was led by Jamie DiDomenico, who made three 3-pointers while scoring 13 points. Christine Pelini connected for 12 points, while Katrina Larson added 10. Chyna Davis scored nine points and collected eight rebounds.
A key to the game was ball control. Fitch stole the ball 18 times, compared to only four for Mooney. The Cardinals committed 28 turnovers while Fitch had 18.
Mooney got off to a fast start, building a 13-7 lead after one quarter.
Mooney “came out prepared and started fast,” said Fitch coach Stacie Cepin. “But then our defense stepped up.
“That was our mindset coming in. We knew we needed to turn it up on defense.”
The momentum changed in the second quarter. On consecutive possessions, Sefcik stole the ball and dribbled the length of the court to sink layups. She was fouled on her second trip, and swished a free throw to cut Mooney’s lead to 18-14.
Sefcik’s field goal a few minutes later tied the score at 24-24, and Braxton sank a shot to give Fitch its first lead, 26-24.
After Mooney again tied the score, Pelini stole the ball and scored a driving layup to give the Cardinals a 28-26 lead at halftime.
Fitch started the third quarter with a 7-0 run that gave the Falcons a lead they never relinquished. The run included two field goals and a free throw by Braxton and a basket by Snowden.
Fitch outscored Mooney 21-13 in the third quarter to take a 47-41 lead.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Fitch applied full-court pressure, which resulted in two steals and layups by Sefcik and Snowden to give the Falcons a double-digit lead, 51-41.
Cepin praised her key players. Regarding Braxton’s game-high scoring, Cepin said, “Erica can do that every night if she wants to.”
Snowden “has about the fastest hands I’ve ever seen,” Cepin added. Regarding Sefcik, the coach said, “I’ve been challenging her to improve, and she took that to heart.”
Mooney coach Bill Ritter said, “We were outstanding in the first quarter. But we don’t play hard for four quarters. We just play hard in spots.”