By Joe Catullo Jr.
Faded basketball hoops and wooden bleachers made for an old-fashioned atmosphere at West Branch High on Saturday afternoon against Austintown Fitch.
The new gym across the hall, where games have been played since 2004, was covered with a few trashcans catching water from a leaking roof.
“It wasn’t anything we could control, but we kind of made light of it with the girls,” said West Branch coach Walt DeShields. “There were some great big-time games in there, and this was no exception.”
West Branch’s Melinda Trimmer and Fitch’s Megan Sefcik stole the show, but Trimmer’s Warriors had the advantage in the 66-59 victory, though the Falcons never let up.
“That was by far my best game of the year,” Trimmer said. “I just went out there [and] played the hardest I could for my team.”
West Branch (19-2) had an 11-point lead after the first quarter before Fitch (17-5) began its comeback. Trimmer scored 14 of the team’s 21 points in that quarter, and the Falcons committed seven turnovers (15 overall).
Fitch went on mini-spurts to trim the deficit and even took a 42-40 lead late in the third quarter, but the Warriors counteracted quickly.
“Our girls really came back, and made some big shots and made some big stops to get the lead back right away,” DeShields said. “Once we built that lead, we did a great job of handling the ball and hitting from the free-throw line.”
West Branch made just seven free throws on 12 attempts overall, but Trimmer’s four late tosses sealed the victory. She finished with 32 points (a career best), seven rebounds and four assists, all team-leading statistics.
“Our young guard, Melinda Trimmer, really stepped up big today,” DeShields said. “But she would be the first one to tell you it wasn’t all her. They had to give her good passes to be able to execute plays off screens. Her teammates helped her get open, too.”
Sefcik led the Falcons with 27 points, nine rebounds and four assists. She also took an elbow from a Warrior defender with 5:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, but returned.
“She’s just an amazing person,” Fitch coach Stacie Cepin said. “We do rally around her, but she makes her teammates better, and that’s why some of the other people are doing some really good things for us.”
Saturday was Fitch’s final regular-season game before tournament time.
“We knew this game meant nothing as far as league or even the tournament because we already had the draw,” Cepin said. “We knew it was a great preparation for us to go into tournament next week. I’m just happy this was on the schedule where it was because we’re going to learn from it.”
Fitch meets Boardman on Saturday in the Division I sectional-district tournament at Akron Ellet.
The Warriors have one game remaining at home on Wednesday and have already been named the second seed while Canfield is first in their Division II sectional-district tournament, hosted by Fitch.
“We were trying to earn respect in the Youngstown area because after getting ranked second, we wanted to prove we’re the better team in Youngstown,” Trimmer said.