Austintown Fitch rallies past Walsh Jesuit

Correspondent photo / Lowell Spencer Austintown Fitch’s Allen Hill (5) drives toward the basket as he’s defended by Walsh Jesuit’s Sean Spicer and Jesse James.

AUSTINTOWN – The Fitch Falcons boys’ basketball team purposely played a tough schedule to prepare for tournament games. That experience paid off Saturday night.

The 19-seed Falcons won in a hard-fought, dramatic, overtime 74-69 victory over the Walsh Jesuit Warriors on Saturday night. With the win, the Falcons improve to 13-10 on the season and advance to the District Semifinals where they will face the Elyria Pioneers. That game will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Twinsburg High School.

“In games like this in tournaments, everything is magnified. You need to make sure everything is cleaned up even more than during the regular season,” Falcons head coach Brian Beany said. “There is no tomorrow. So, I told them not to go out there and play tight. Play loose, but just remember everything is magnified.”

With the loss, the Warriors close their season with a 13-11 record. Walsh Jesuit knocked off Solon on Wednesday to reach the sectional final with the Falcons.

Fitch battled back to overcome a 16-point second-quarter deficit to pull out the win in overtime. The combination of the Falcon’s hot shooting and the Warriors cooling off in the second half after a sizzling shooting performance in the first half helped the Falcons to rally.

“I have been doing this for so long that I’m thinking that eventually, they have to stop making what they are making,” Beany said of Walsh Jesuit’s hot first-half shooting. “They had to come back down here a little bit.”

With just 56 seconds remaining in the contest and the Falcons trailing 58-55, Marcel Finkley launched a long three from the top of the key that banked in for a game-tying score. Neither team was able to convert on shots in the final seconds, forcing an extra session tied at 58-58.

“Honestly no,” Finkley chuckled about not thinking he hit the shot when he released it. “It didn’t come off of my hand well, but somehow it banked in. I was really excited, but when it came off my hand, I thought there was no way it was going in.”

Finkley quickly provided the Falcons with a lead, their first since the early moments of the contest, with another three at the 3:40 mark and two free throws with 3:21 remaining in the game. That gave the Falcons a five-point, 63-58 advantage. The Falcons would go on to convert on 13 of 18 free throws in the extra period to power to the five-point margin of victory.

“We have been poor the last five or six games in shooting free throws,” Beany admitted. “We were good at the beginning of the season and then hit a rut. But we made some big ones down the stretch tonight.”

The Falcons struggled all night to contain Sean Spicer as he scored an incredible 33 points in the contest. He knocked down seven threes and scored three times inside on layups. And when he didn’t score inside, he drew fouls to add six free throws on 10 attempts.

Powered by Spicer, the Warriors held a 12-10 lead at the close of the first quarter. They would start the second period with a 17-2 run to hold a commanding 16-point, 29-13 advantage.

That’s when Finkley took his team on his shoulders and helped them to mount their comeback.

Finkley hit on his second of five treys along with two baskets on drives to the basket. When he scored at the 2:19 mark of the second quarter, the Falcons cut the deficit down to nine points. The Warriors held a seven-point, 32-25 lead at halftime.

“I knew someone had to get it going tonight. It just happened to be me,” Finkley said. “Whether I was hitting threes or driving to the hoop and kicking it out, but we got it done.”

“I told them at halftime hopefully they (Walsh Jesuit) will come back down to earth here a little bit,” Beany said. “We just needed to stick with it one possession at a time.”

Deshawn Vaughn added two free throws at the 7:24 mark of the third quarter to make it a four-point game at 32-28 in the Warriors’ favor. Walsh Jesuit held an eight-point, 46-38 lead at the close of the third period.

The Warriors went on to build their lead back up to 10 at 54-44 by the 5:37 mark of the fourth quarter before the Falcons made their final desperate push. Finkley and Vaughn scored eight of the Falcons’ final 12 points in the quarter to knot the game at 58-58.

Have an interesting story? Contact the Sports Department, at sports@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribChronSports.


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