By Greg Gulas
Brandon Townsend scored 18 points and Derik Lewis added 17 points and 10 rebounds as Akron East defeated Austintown Fitch, 60-50, Friday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
“We knew coming into the game that Akron East was a very athletic club as they average 70-plus points per game and love to shoot the 3s,” Falcons coach Brian Beany said. “We also knew that we had to block out, but they had eight or nine second chance opportunities in the first half alone and that hurt us. We did a much better job of blocking out in the second half.
“We tell our guys that we have to do everything right, all of the time because we have no margin for error. We did do a lot of good things tonight, but didn’t maintain the level needed against an athletic group like Akron East.”
A triple by Lewis and two buckets from beyond the arc by Trevon Stafford gave the Dragons (13-8) an early 9-4 advantage, but a triple and four free throws by Jessie Driver helped the Falcons (9-13) close with a 7-2 run to knot the score at 11 apiece after the first eight minutes.
Fitch’s Alex DiFrancesco then scored eight of 10 points in the second frame, but six points by Townsend helped Akron East forge a 25-all tie with 34 seconds remaining.
With time winding down, Stafford’s third and final triple of the game as the buzzer sounded then gave the Dragons a 28-25 lead heading to the locker room.
It was a lead they would not relinquish the remainder of the game.
Driver had a team-high 15 points for Fitch. DiFrancesco and Quincy Higgins with 10 points apiece were the only other Falcons players to score in double figures.
“We get a little too comfortable when we have the lead, making runs when we are patient but allowing runs when we are not,” Dragons coach Ross Fiorello said. “We didn’t shoot well early, but were much more patient in the second half.”
Two triples by Lewis and four points each from Townsend and Kenyon Philpott helped Akron East outscore the Falcons, 16-8 in the quarter as they forged a 44-33 advantage with one quarter of play remaining.
“We didn’t pressure the ball like we could have and got a little lazy defensively, but a win is a win and this win we’ll take, especially since it came on the road,” Lewis noted.
Akron East built a 12-point lead on two occasions after the half, the last coming at 41-29 with 3:40 remaining in the third period.
Austintown Fitch then went on a 17-9 run and when Austin Hogan’s jumper connected from the right corner, the Falcons pulled to within 50-46 at 1:59 of the final qarter.
That was the closest Fitch would get the rest of the way, however, as the Dragons closed with a 10-4 run of their own.