Fitch pulls away in 2nd half to knock off Poland

By Greg Gulas


Exactly one year ago Saturday, Austintown Fitch girls basketball coach Stacie Cepin was undergoing an operation for thyroid cancer, an experience she kept to herself during her first season as the Falcons’ coach.

Noticeably emotional when she speaks of her ordeal, she is as healthy as ever and has the Falcons playing a healthy brand of basketball.

“After what I have gone through over the past year, I am just so thankful for each and every day and to share this journey with my team,” said Cepin.

“I absolutely love them and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”

Megan Sefcik and Anissa Hill each scored 17 points and Fitch outscored Poland by 14 points in the second half of a 57-38 victory.

“We worked really hard in the offseason and realized that we have to execute offensively if we expect to be successful,” said Sefcik.

Sefcik, who also had six rebounds, has led Fitch in scoring every game this season, but failed for the first time to reach 20 points.

The play of Hill was a welcome addition on Saturday.

“This attitude and dedication took place in the summer,” said Hill. “We worked harder than we ever worked and it has carried over to both our practices and now the games.

Sefcik scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, in the first quarter as the teams battled to a 10-all tie.

Hill scored seven points in the second period as the Falcons outscored the Bulldogs (4-2) 13-8 for a 23-18 halftime advantage.

Cepin said the leadership of her three seniors (Marissa Mattozzi, Erica Braxton and Mariah Snowden) and keeping a journal by all team members this year has brought the team closer than she could ever have imagined.

“Our three seniors have really stepped up and bought into our system,” she said. “Their leadership has been the key to our success.

“Keeping a journal has also been big and while we don’t always share our thoughts, it has created a family atmosphere and trust and you see that carried over to school, in practice and in our games,” Cepin said.

Two 3-pointers by both Mattozzi and Hill after intermission helped the Falcons (5-1) open up a 38-30 lead. Braxton scored eight of her 11 points in the fourth frame as Fitch outscored the Bulldogs 19-8.

Jim Stickel served as acting coach for the Bulldogs while coach Nick Blanch recovers from a stomach virus.

“Our girls realize what it takes to win and while the outcome isn’t what we would have liked today, the effort is definitely there,” Stickel said.