By dan pompili
The Fitch Falcons seemed to have the Lakeview Bulldogs well in hand Tuesday night as they cruised to a leisurely 20-10 lead in the first quarter in an interdivisional All-American Conference boys basketball game.
Then the second quarter happened.
Lakeview (4-12) hit back hard with a 17-9 push and Austintown coach Brian Beany walked into the locker room shaking his head as his team held a mere two-point lead at the half.
“We had a little personal talk,” he said with a smile after the game. “You could call it that.”
Whatever he said, it struck a chord with his Falcons (6-8), as they buried the Bulldogs — bones, collars and all — en route to a 58-39 home win.
“That was probably the worst quarter of basketball we’ve played all year, and against a varsity team, if you lose control that’s what’s going to happen to you,” Beany said. “But our guys came back and it was a good game. It was a good win.”
After trading baskets in a third quarter that looked like it might carry on the first-half drama, Fitch went on a tear of its own. For nearly nine minutes, spanning the third and fourth quarters, the Falcons held Lakeview to a lone two-point bucket, while Fitch piled on 21 points.
“We just went back to our old selves, very passive, not rebounding,” Lakeview coach Craig Mild said. “You know, the scoreboard doesn’t indicate that we played well for three quarters, but you get down to a good team like that — you can’t recover.”
With just under 3 minutes to go in the game, the Bulldogs caught a couple breaks for back-to-back hoops, giving them their only four points in the final period, and capping off a lackluster 12-point second half showing.
Junior point guard Jessie Driver was as good as his name, attacking the basket with aggressive layups and short pull-up jumpers as he pillaged the Bulldogs for 21 points and 12 rebounds, leading his team and all scorers on the night.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Driver — we just had no answer for him tonight,” Mild said. “He was just hitting shots wherever he wanted to.”
Alex DiFrancesco added 10 points and Curtis Beverly another nine for the winners, and Beany was not as eager to single out his point guard’s performance.
“All my guys did something well tonight. They all contributed and they all did their part. I told them we needed to play well physically, mentally and emotionally, and when we get all three phases of our game, we are a pretty good team,” he said.
“Jessie didn’t do so well against Poland, but I told him that good players come back from rough games and that’s what he did. He stepped up and I’m proud of him for it.”
Jake Pishotti led the Bulldogs with 11 points, and Andrew Grove added another 10, including two first-half 3-pointers.