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Falcons off target in loss

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Cam Smith of Fitch, right, moves to the basket against two Howland Tigers. The Falcons lost a tough road contest Friday night, 49-46.

HOWLAND — In a close game, missed opportunities are fatal.

Those missed opportunities sank Austintown Fitch, which dropped a 49-46 decision to Howland in an All-American Conference showdown Friday night.

“When you struggle putting the ball in the basket, I don’t care who you play, it’s going to be a dogfight,” Falcons coach Brian Beany said. “We had a lot of opportunities to score, we just couldn’t do it. We kind of did it in spurts here and there. We were starting to get stops, but then we weren’t converting those stops into makes.”

The game was back-and-forth for 32 minutes, with neither team able to establish a stable lead. Fitch held a 24-22 lead at the half, thanks to 16 first-half points from leading scorer Todd Simons. Simons finished the night with 23 points.

As the Howland defense began to shift heavier onto Simons in the second half, junior Allen Underwood was able to capitalize, scoring seven second-half points and finishing with 11.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Fitch’s Todd Simons, middle, splits two Howland defenders on Friday.

Fitch’s defensive pressure kept Howland on its toes, but good defensive play doesn’t matter if the offense can’t put points on the board.

“We usually like to dictate everything from our press,” Beany said. “I thought our press got better in the second half. We got a bunch of stops in a row, but you’ve got to score. You’ve got to put the ball in the basket.”

As time ticked away, Fitch continued to press and get opportunities, but the little mistakes from earlier in the game added up and they couldn’t pass Howland.

“I thought for the most part we played hard, we just didn’t do the little things,” Beany said. “You can’t give a team that many possessions. Then we’re 8-of-16 from the line, that doesn’t help. I was worried about this game.

“I told those guys ‘We come off a big game Tuesday, you can’t have that letdown.’ Not that we had that letdown per se, just when that ball wasn’t going in, you could see us getting tighter and tighter. That’s how the ball bounces sometimes.”

Howland moves to 3-5 with the win and has now won two straight after a five-game losing streak. Four of those losses were in one week. The Tigers are starting to pick up momentum as they face Ashtabula Lakeside tonight.

“It feels great,” Howland coach Dan Bubon said. “I’ve never had a week like last week. I never had a week with four games, and we lost by 1, 4, 9 and 2. So every one of them we had a chance in the fourth quarter. That’s heartbreaking.

“Then we come back and beat a very good Newton Falls team who was undefeated, and then to beat a very good Fitch team here tonight, we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

Anthony Massucci led the Tigers with 18 points.

The Falcons (5-7, 2-2) continue against Louisville on Tuesday. Louisville will test Fitch with an even more physical game.

“They’ll be physical,” Beany said. “They’ll be more physical than Howland, so if we don’t match that, it’s gonna be another dogfight, that’s for sure.”

As the team looks to move on from this loss, Beany said the elder statesmen of the team need to set the tone, and refocus everyone on the game ahead.

“It’s on the senior leadership,” Beany said. “You’re a senior for a reason. You’ve been around, you’ve got to set the tone in practice. The underclassmen look up to the seniors so that’s where it starts.”

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