By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Austintown Fitch girls basketball coach Stacie Cepin’s word of the day for the Falcons was intensity. And it was intensity that allowed Fitch to pull away from Jefferson in the second quarter on its way to a 60-37 non-conference victory.
“We have a deep bench this year and we take pride in that,” Cepin said. “Give credit to Jefferson — they fought in the first half.
“That’s our MO. We wear people down and that started to show about the middle of the third quarter.”
Fitch (2-0) held a slight 15-13 advantage after eight minutes, but used a 13-0 spurt to start the second period on its way to a 34-20 halftime lead.
“We want to hurry people up,” Cepin said. “We’ll pick up them up full court. We want to hurry people’s decisions and make them make mistakes. We’ll do that until the game’s out of reach.”
“They started to pull away and we went lost on offense,” Jefferson coach Rod Holmes said. “They hit some baskets.
“(They’re pressure) and we missed some shots. We knew (the pressure defense) was their gameplan.”
A pair of blocks by Maria Sefcik led to two Fitch layups during that stretch. Sefcik also hit a 3 and scored on a drive during the run.
“This year, a lot of people are going to talk about (Sefcik’s) offense,” Cepin said. “I don’t know anybody in our area and I’d put her up against anybody in the state (who can play defense the way she does). Not many can defend the way she can. It does trickle down to the rest of the team.”
Sefcik, a junior, finished with 17 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, six steals two blocks.
Eight straight points to open the third quarter had the Fitch advantage to 42-20 with 5:44 to play in the period. Sarah Melfe and Sefcik each hit a 3-pointer just 15 seconds apart.
“The thing with them is if you have a little lull, they can shoot it,” Holmes said. “They’ve got some pretty nice shooters. (Sefcik) can fill it up.
“At one point, they hit a 3, we threw one out of bounds and they hit another 3. That’s a quick turnaround and it took about eight seconds off the clock.”
Ten of the 11 Fitch players who played scored. Cassie Custer netted 10 and Aaliyah Sadler added eight.
Fitch committed just nine turnovers in the contest and forced 22 Jefferson miscues — 13 on steals.
“I think that’s preparation,” Cepin said. “I can finally say I have a veteran team. That’s what happens when you prepare. That’s not just by accident.
“We’re pretty proud of what we’re doing.”
Sarah Busch led Jefferson (1-1) with 10 points, LeeAnn Farr tallied nine and Ariann Barile added seven with a team-high 10 boards.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.