Butcher’s late 3 helps Fitch outlast Hubbard

Fitch rallies from

11-point deficit

in fourth quarter

By Ryan Buck



The lead it had held since early in the second quarter had completely evaporated and the Austintown Fitch basketball team was about to watch visiting Hubbard walk out of their gym with an upset victory.

Facing its largest deficit at 46-35 with six minutes remaining in the game, Falcons coach Brian Beany had a message for his senior-laden team during a timeout.

“I looked in their eyes and said, ‘You guys have all been here before. Relax. You’re seniors, you know what needs to be done.

“‘There’s no magic pill to just come back in one play. You’ve just got to claw, fight and scratch your way back and believe that you can do it.’”

His team responded in kind and the one player on his team whose four-year career epitomized Beany’s fourth-quarter message finally got his shot Friday night.

Fitch guard Mike Butcher deftly buried a 3-pointer from the left wing and broke a 52-52 tie with 15 seconds left that ultimately proved the game-winner.

“I shoot hundreds of shots every day, so it was second nature for me to shoot that [3-pointer],” Butcher said after the Falcons’ 55-52 win. “After practice and before, I shoot hundreds of shots. I just felt like I was in the gym shooting by myself when it left my hand.”

With under a minute remaining, the Falcons survived two short-range misses from Hubbard forward Brennan Wassil.

On their next possession, Fitch guard Jessie Driver found teammate Alex DiFrancesco down low. Surrounded, he fired a cross-court pass to a wide-open Butcher.

“The last play I told them, ‘If they’re just going to sit back and let us take the last shot, we’re going to take it,’ Beany bellowed over the shouting from a boisterous locker room. “‘We’re going to take what they give us, we’re going to run our play that we run and if you get a good shot, shoot it.’ Michael kind of sneaked out there to the wing and knocked that shot down.”

Hubbard immediately called a timeout and had one last possession.

After he found room thanks to a ball screen at the top of the key, Eagles guard Derek Kopanic’s deep 3-point attempt barely grazed the front of the rim before Fitch’s Quincy Higgins snared the rebound.

Higgins missed both ensuing free throws, but Driver deflected Hubbard’s cross-court pass off the fingertips of Hubbard’s Darnell Tate and out-of-bounds and the Falcons ran out the clock.

Butcher, a 5-foot-9 guard who finished with 11 points and was 3-of-5 from behind the arc, says he worked every day since his freshman season just to break into the Falcons’ rotation.

“I’ve got heart,” Butcher said. “I just work my butt off in the summer doing whatever I have to do to get better. This is my first year actually starting too, so I’ve worked hard for it.”

The number of shots Butcher hoists every day has become part of Falcons lore. Despite the source of contention, he has earned the trust of teammates, who claim the number is in the thousands, and coaches alike.

“Nobody shoots as many shots in practice as this kid,” Beany said. “That’s all he does and thinks about is shoot the basketball and that’s one of the kids who you want the ball in their hands for an open look.”

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