By Tom Williams
After the Austintown Fitch High girls basketball team’s first win over Howland in a long time, none of the Falcons were overly celebrating.
“I wouldn’t say it was the biggest [win of the season], I’d say it was a needed win because it’s a conference game,” said Falcons junior Megan Sefcik who scored 26 points in Fitch’s 58-42 win on Thursday. “Last year, we took a couple of tough losses to them. We remembered that.”
Last season, everyone suffered league losses to the senior-laden Tigers, winners of the All-American Conference American Division for multiple seasons. But Howland head coach John Diehl had to replace all of his starters last fall and the Tigers are enduring growing pains.
“We didn’t score in the first three-and-a-half minutes,” said Diehl of an early 9-0 deficit. “But then we came back.”
Two 3-pointers by Victoria Rappach helped the Tigers (6-5, 3-2) post a 14-5 run to close the first quarter.
Then the Falcons (9-2, 3-1) took charge, seizing control with a 13-2 run for a double-digit lead they maintained the rest of the game.
“Our team is known for coming back,” Sefcik said. “We knew we had to get a boost going.”
Sefcik frustrated the Tigers with five steals, converting three of them into easy layups.
“She’s really taken some pride, some ownership in improving her defense this year,” Fitch head coach Stacie Cepin said. “Offensively, she’s a threat and people know that.
“But defensively, she’s amazing.”
Sefcik confirmed her focus is getting better without the ball.
“Coming into high school, yeah, I didn’t have the best defense,” Sefcik said. “My goal each year was to improve each year because I knew that would help my team more than my offensive game.”
Diehl was impressed with Sefcik’s “very quick hands. She tried to post herself up and we had smaller people on her, but she’s a very smart player and she can really shoot.”
Trisha Ginnis led the Tigers with 13 points while Rappach contributed 12.
Cepin reluctantly called this the Falcons’ biggest win of the season. “To this point, yes,” Cepin said. “Howland has been a very successful program.”
Cepin credited the surge to her bench and Sefcik’s skills.
“Megan does a good job of getting everybody involved,” Cepin said.
Paige McClendon scored seven points and pulled down eight of the Falcons’ 25 rebounds.
“It was a good win because it was a conference game,” McClendon said. “Biggest win? Any win is a big win to me.”