Fitch girls hold off Struthers | News, Sports, Jobs

Fitch girls hold off Struthers | News, Sports, Jobs

Staff photo / Brian Yauger
Austintown Fitch’s Rachel Spalding goes up for a jumper as Struthers’ Katelyn Kimble tries to block the shot.

AUSTINTOWN — Despite a strong fourth quarter effort from Struthers, who rallied back from a near-20 point deficit, Fitch fended off the attack and held on for a scrappy 50-46 victory.

“Credit to Struthers,” first-year Falcons coach Dan Horacek said. “Everyone said that they’re gonna have a down year, but I know that community. My friends are from there, and it’s a chippy game. They play so aggressive and you can’t teach stuff that those kids do with aggression. I just credit (Struthers) coach (John Hritz) on getting (his players) playing so hard, and they really pushed us.

“I told (the players) in the locker room that I don’t think we win that game (last year). We were in a very similar situation against Massillon Washington (last season) and we lost that game. I’m really proud that our kids are sticking with it, paying attention and following through the process.”

The win moves Fitch to 2-1 on the season, dropping to Louisville and taking down Hudson.

Ayla Ray led the Falcons with 10 points on the night. Destanie McCullough tacked on nine.

Struthers (0-2) was led by Katelyn Kimble, who had 15 points. Emma Morris tacked on 10.

Hritz, who is in his 53rd season coaching girls basketball, took back over the Wildcats program in August. The late start means a lot of these players are learning things on the fly, especially because a lot of them are so young.

Trailing 44-27 after the third quarter, the Wildcats needed to rally. It was a physical game throughout, and there was no better help than matching that intensity.

“We finally decided we wanted to play and quit turning the ball over so much,” Hritz said. “We’re so young. I’ve got two seniors out of the school that play, but (the rest are) all freshmen, sophomores. They’re all young kids, they need playing time. They’re going to make those mistakes, but they made a heck of a comeback.”

In a game that required both teams to grind it out if they wanted a win, Fitch’s experience played a role.

The Falcon upperclassmen stepped up when needed and were able to maintain that lead.

“They just kept grinding,” Horacek said. “I don’t know, we had to have missed 25 layups, and that’s not us. But what really helped us was Lannie Henning coming off the bench and running her havoc press, and she just got tip after tip after tip. She made some layups, and she got us into a really good position, so I’m really proud of her. Then at the end, the seniors stepped up, and the juniors stepped up and we won the game.”

Struthers looks for its first win against Western Reserve on Monday.

“They’re good. They like to press, they like to run. They’re a good team,” Hritz said. “We’re going to have to be aggressive. I think our kids got a lot of confidence tonight just knowing they can play against Fitch.”

Fitch hosts Hathaway Brown on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Things aren’t going to be easy for the Falcons this season, but Horacek is confident his group can handle it.

“There’s a lot of improvement we still need to do. We have a really tough schedule coming up, but we have to get after it at practice,” Horacek said. “We have to work on the defense and we have to shore up boxing out and rebounding. I know these kids will do it. I’ve known them since they’ve been in fifth grade. They’ve accepted every challenge that we’ve laid out for them.”

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