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Fitch falls as Harding pulls away late

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Fitch sophomore Deshawn Vaughn (10) makes a move toward the basket while being defended by Harding’s Devin Boss. Vaughn had 16 points for the Falcons.

WARREN — One person can essentially change the ebbs and flow of a game.

That person was Tyriq Ivory Friday night as his game-high 25 points and defensive prowess helped Warren G. Harding come away with a 62-51 win over Austintown Fitch in an All-American Conference matchup.

“One guy is a man child,” Fitch coach Brian Beany said. “Ivory is just out there and he’s a beast. You can’t let him get north and south. You have to be able to stop that penetration. It’s easier said than done. If he gets a full head of steam, good luck, you aren’t stopping it. You have to be willing to stay there and take it.

“If he beats you, you just have to foul him,” Beany continued. “You can’t let him get to the basket because he’s really good at that. He was the difference maker. He was flat out, 100 percent the difference maker — whether getting rebounds, blocks, or just attacking the basket. He’s good, no doubt about it.”

Before Ivory took over, the Falcons (4-10, 1-3) were coasting in the first quarter shooting 7-of-12 from the field with Deshawn Vaughn’s hot hand scoring 10 of those points to give Fitch an 18-10 lead after one.

Ivory scored the first bucket of the second quarter and completed the three-point play as the Raiders (5-4, 3-0) started the quarter on a 12-2 run to make it 22-20 with 4:25 left in the first half.

“I just think we kind of just started playing hard,” Harding coach Keelyn Franklin said. “That first quarter, we were just lethargic. We weren’t talking. We weren’t communicating. We just didn’t have that bounce to us. I like to think it was my huddle, yelling at them, but who knows what it was. They’re high school kids and it clicked for them.”

Vaughn was held scoreless and Ivory scored seven in the quarter to make it 28-27 in favor of Fitch at the half.

“I just think Tyriq decided to play defense,” Beany said. “When he wants to clamp you down, he’s pretty darn good at it. We had some opportunities in that second quarter to pull away a little bit. We missed some easy shots. We’d like to have those obviously.”

The third quarter was a continuation of the second quarter.

“I had a feeling that we were going to stay in that zone because we were struggling with it,” Franklin said. “We kind of talked about our execution against their zone. We really wanted to just force them and to contest their shots.

“We wanted to box out and hit the glass,” he added. “We just kept preaching defense defense. I thought we could score on them consistently, enough to win the game, but it really just came down to getting those stops.”

That was evident with Fitch shooting 8-of-25 in the second half.

Ivory threw down 10 points in the quarter as he made three straight buckets to end the quarter to make it 48-40 after Devin Sherwood’s 3 made it 42-40.

Sherwood had a team high 17 points for the Falcons.

“Getting to the rim,” Franklin said. “Playing aggressive. There’s not many people in the area that can stay in front of him when he’s locked in and he’s good defensively. He just has that ability to change games on both ends of the floor. When he’s locked in, I’ll take him over anybody.”

Beany said he felt as the game wore on in the second half that the Raiders pushed his team around.

With 3:11 left and the Raiders up 56-45, tempers flared and Harding was given two technical fouls after a hard foul on Duncan Moy ended his night with a knee injury.

“It’s crazy because Brian and I are pretty cool,” Franklin said. “We scrimmaged them a ton in the summer. We kind of know each other. We know that familiarity. We’ve had those types of events happen. So no bad blood or anything, just a competitive game. I’m glad that we were able to kind of tough it out.

Moy finished with 18 points, with nine coming from behind the arc.

Beany felt Moy hit some big shots for the Raiders and made the Falcons pay.

“He’s growing up,” Franklin said. “He has a ton of potential. He has a bright future. I think he’s really starting to get his confidence. He’s really starting to understand that not only can he play at this level, but he’s one of the better guys. I think it’s really just confidence for him. As a young sophomore, just getting those reps he’s starting to get that confidence and he can play with anybody.”

After the technical fouls, the Falcons went just 2-of-4 from the line and couldn’t convert after taking the ball out with 2:51 left.

However, Fitch got back to the line with 2:47 left as Joe Roth made both free throws to make it 56-49.

“We could have been down three,” Beany said. “Then when we stole the ball and Ivory smacked it off the backboard. We didn’t convert. That was an easy two.”

The Falcons never got any closer after Harding finished the game on a 6-2 run with Ivory’s defensive stop on a breakaway layup à la LeBron James in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals and his field goal-and-one with 1:02 left.

“I think we’re hitting our stride a little bit,” Franklin said. “We’re getting our confidence. We’re playing well together. I think it bodes well for us moving forward.”

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