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Lady Falcons starting to fail at just the wrong time

February 11, 2020
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

The girls basketball programs from Warren Harding and West Branch are two of the most powerful ones in the area.

Those teams have combined for a 37-4 record this year and are ranked in the top ten of their respective state polls. Unfortunately for the Fitch girls basketball team, those were the exact two schools it had to face in back-to-back games last week. Predictably, things didn't go too well for the struggling Lady Falcons against the Lady Raiders and Lady Warriors. Fitch fell to West Branch 57-29 last Saturday and was whipped by Warren Harding 71-37 a few nights earlier. Those two road losses were preceded by a narrow 50-46 defeat at upstart Boardman. The three game losing skid has dropped the Falcons to 8-12 on the year and has them headed in the wrong direction with the Division I state tournament right around the corner.

"It was two tough ones this week," said Fitch head coach Dan Schnurrenberger a few hours after losing to West Branch. "We're still trying to improve fundamentally on both sides of the ball."

Schnurrenberger's bunch is also trying to improve their health as well. The flu bug has bitten the club with one of its best players feeling the worse.

"What made (the week's games) more challenging is that we went into those games without our starting point guard and leading scorer Emma Bartlett," said Schnurrenberger.

It's not certain that even Emma could have helped derail the steaming locomotive which is the West Branch outfit. The Falcons actually had one of their better first quarters in recent memory scoring a dozen points. Even with that steady first frame, they still found themselves down 19-12 heading into the second. A paltry nine point stretch by Fitch over the next two periods put the game in the hands of the Warriors. The hosts held an insurmountable 43-21 advantage entering the final eight minutes. Junior Mya McNevin was the only Fitch girl in double digits with 11 points. Senior Ashley Mickey made it home with eight points.

The Falcons already lost to Harding by 14 points in early January, but that final score seemed close compared to what happened last Wednesday in Warren. Fitch's ladies weren't able to crack ten points in either of the first two periods. Meanwhile, the Warren kids were pouring in baskets at an alarming pace. They would score 28 points in the first period then follow that up with a 17-9 run in the second to take a laughable 45-14 halftime lead. The win by the Raiders kept them unbeaten in the All American Conference's Red Tier and clinched them the top seed in the upcoming Ravenna District. One bright spot for Fitch was freshman Zayda Creque who kept her hot play going leading the team with 10 points. She has been sensational since cracking the starting five a few weeks ago and did well in replacing Bartlett against the Raiders.

"Zayda Creque filled in at point guard and did a great job," said Schnurrenberger. "She's gained huge experience for the future."

Senior Daria Williams also scored 10 points. Senior Caitlyn Corbett cooperated with seven points.

Just like in the previous two contests, the Falcons struggled to find their offensive rhythm in the first half at Boardman. Before anyone in the crowd could blink, the Lady Spartans were ahead 13-2. An 18-9 halftime advantage allowed them to hold off a fourth quarter charge by the Falcons and earn them their first AAC win of the year. Mickey and Creque collected 13 points apiece to pace Fitch.

Afterwards, Schnurrenberger realized that his team's trip to the tournament may be a short one if it doesn't make some betterments soon. That needs to happen on each end of the court.

"We are a tough team to beat offensively when we shoot the ball with confidence," said Schnurrenberger. "Defensively, we have the ability to really grind out possessions."

The 8th-seeded Falcons will first try to grind out a tournament win on Feb. 15 when they host number 9 Hudson. The 7-11 Lady Explorers have had some of the same type of inconsistency that the Falcons have been saddled with this year. Playing Hudson in the sectional opener at home is something that makes Fitch's coach extremely grateful.

"We're very pleased with our (tournament) draw," said Schnurrenberger. "It's always a team goal to get a home tournament game. The girls earned that opportunity with some big wins this year."

If the Falcons do indeed eliminate the Explorers, then they'll earn another shot at the nearly unstoppable Raiders. That third rematch would take place on Feb. 20.



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