Although this has been an underwhelming campaign for the Austintown Fitch High School boys basketball team, a current winning spell has given the team a renewed sense of hope heading into the final stretch of the season.
The Falcons won three of their past five games, including an impressive 66-47 wipeout of rival Canfield Jan. 27. Two other wins over Liberty and Hubbard gave the Falcons four total wins and has their coach cautiously optimistic.
"We're playing better," head coach Brian Beany said, "but we still have a group of kids that are learning how to win. We need to sustain this good play."
Beany's boys needed five quarters Friday night in Hubbard to keep the momentum going. Fitch edged the Eagles, 63-61, in overtime in a contest that defied logic.
"(The Hubbard game) had to be one of the craziest game I've been involved in in a long time," Beany said. "There were some crazy calls at the end (of regulation) and in overtime. Thankfully we persevered and were able to make the plays we needed to."
The referees did go a little whistle crazy in the final quarter and started calling fouls on what seemed like every other possession. Unfortunately, most of those infractions were directed towards the Falcons as both Dylan Beany and Emmanuel Dawkins fouled out of the game, which allowed some lesser-known Falcons to fly into action.
"We had other kids step up in overtime," Brian Beany said.
Kole Klasic was one of the Falcons who had a great game with 12 points. Players like Blake Baker, Cole Constance, Tyler James and Ryan Sheffield got on the floor and helped Fitch outscore the home team, 8-6, in the fifth period. That tight extra frame proved just how closely contested the entire game was as neither team owned more than a slim single-digit lead throughout the battle.
While plenty of Fitch players were aiding the winning effort, it was junior star Randy Smith who set the tone. Smith smothered the Eagles with 30 points, including five from behind the 3-point line. Klasic hit both of Fitch's other triples.
Klasic had a classic performance in the win over the nemesis Cardinals. The junior collected a career-high 17 points versus Canfield, propelling the Falcons to the huge victory. Dylan Beany had 21 points and eight rebounds to pace Fitch.
Down 32-30 at halftime, the Falcons outscored Canfield, 36-15, over the final 16 minutes to secure the comfortable win.
"It was the first game all year we came close to playing a complete game," Brian Beany said. "Everyone contributed both offensively and defensively."
The only thing standing in the way of a four-game winning streak for Brian Beany's club was an 89-60 loss to mighty Warren G. Harding on the last night of January. Despite the setback, the coach was inspired with his team's output.
"The final score was not indicative of the game," Brian Beany said. "We were only down four at halftime and could have had the lead. (Harding) hit some big shots."
Even after surrendering 189 points in two games to Harding and losing by a combined 72 points, Brian Beany remained assured that his kids have what it takes to upset the Raiders if their paths collide in a few weeks.
"I'm confident we can beat (Harding) if we played them in the tournament," he said. " I think we can play with anybody. The tournament is wide open. Anybody can beat anybody, and that makes it exciting."
The Falcons lost Tuesday's home conference game to the Lakeside Dragons, 64-52. The Falcons were outscored, 18-9, in the first quarter. Constance led the way with 15 points, while Smith made five buckets for 13 points.
Lakeside held Fitch to just nine points in the first quarter.
The varsity Falcons are now 4-13 overall and 2-8 in the All-American Conference Red Tier.