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Surging forward

Struthers catches slumping Fitch after Falcons’ outstanding start

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Struthers’ Emma Elia, right, drives inside on Fitch’s Emma Barlett. Elia had a game-high 16 points for the Wildcats.

AUSTINTOWN — For the first 8 minutes, Fitch coach Dan Schnurrenberger couldn’t have drawn up a better start for his Falcon girls basketball team.

The Falcons would have liked to have the second and third quarters back in their 57-47 setback to the Struthers Wildcats.

“It was one of those nights,” Schnurrenberger said. “We came out hot. It was a good senior night. It a was a good presentation before the game. I’m happy our seniors could experience that. They came well and … it happens. It happens sometimes. What I’m proud about is that our girls didn’t stop working hard.

“They were flying around still because sometimes when things don’t go your way on offense, it affects what you do on defense. For the most part we held it down and still played really hard. Struthers shot the ball well. They are a well-coached team. His girls get after it.”

Emma Elia led the Wildcats (13-9) with a game-high 16 points. Daria Williams led the Falcons (8-13) with 13.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Struthers’ Chloe Heider, left, battles Fitch’s Sha’nia Stiers-Royal for a rebound during the second half.

The Falcons held a 13-5 lead more than midway through the first quarter after a Mya McNevin bucket, but Struthers finished the quarter on a 10-4 run as the Falcons led 17-15 after one period.

Still, the Falcons were 8-for-12 from the floor with three players (Williams, Ashley Mickey and McNevin) in the scoring column.

Though, those three would finish with just four points over the final three quarters.

“We talked about it being senior night, that they were going to come out with a lot of energy,” Struthers coach Bill Neider said. “We knew they’d come out and be real aggressive. We wanted to try and match that. They came out and did punch us in the mouth a bit. I was proud of the girls though because they were able to regroup and relax a bit. We just kind of chipped away at it.”

That chipping away began at the end of that first quarter and continued as the Wildcats opened up 25-19 after a Heike Kaurschill bucket with 3:02 left in the first half.

Struthers held a 29-21 at the half holding Fitch to 2-of-14 shooting in the second quarter.

“It really started on the defensive end,” Neider said. “One thing we were doing was switch up everything and getting hands up. We talked about contesting shots. I think that helps a little bit sometimes. You want them to make tough shots. I was just disappointed because we need to rebound better. They kind of made that run with some and ones. We need to be better on the glass.”

The Falcons outrebounded the Wildcats 38 to 28, but controlling the boards wasn’t necessary as they opened up a 17-point lead, 45-28, in the third quarter. Renee Leonard scored her 12th point.

“It starts with our leader Renee Leonard,” Neider said. “She played sick a little bit today. She sets the tone We want to be one of those teams that is tough to beat in the tournament.”

By the fourth quarter, the Falcons had been held to 14 points in those pivotal second and third quarters where they combined to shoot 4-of-34.

“We got some attempts, I don’t know,” Schnurrenberger said. “We’ll watch the film and figure it out from there. I’m happy for our girls. I’m happy the way they played. I’m happy they didn’t give up.”

That mindset got Fitch back in the game as they got it within nine points a few times in the final 4 minutes. The Falcons couldn’t make enough buckets down the stretch when Struthers’ Emma Elia picked up her fourth foul with around 2 minutes left in regulation.

“A lot of what we do goes through Emma,” Neider said. “She’s definitely one of the people we want on the floor when they are in a situation where they are going to foul. We took her and trusted our other players. We weren’t going to worry about it unless they got it within two possessions.”

Both Struthers and Fitch are in tournament mode. Struthers goes in as the seventh seed in Division II and hosts Niles this Saturday.

“Our mindset everyday is coming to work and keep getting better,” Neider said.

The Falcons also open up the Division I tournament at home in a No. 8-9 matchup against Hudson.

“We have a home game and we earned it with some of the wins we’ve had,” Schnurrenberger said. “We’re battling the flu right now. Our starting point guard (Caitlyn Corbett) was out for most of the game. We have to get healthy and reset the mind here. It’s tournament time. I love this time of year. I’m excited for the challenge. I’m happy the girls earned the right to have another game on this floor.”