AUSTINTOWN OH- The All-American Conference (AAC), despite just five teams as representatives, always has tough, hard-nosed and competitive matchups amongst the five member schools. Friday night’s meeting between The Howland Tigers and The Austintown-Fitch Falcons was no different! Dating back to 2018, Howland and Fitch were 5-5 against one another in their last ten matchups. Squaring-off with each other earlier this month at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse up in Cleveland, Fitch got out to an early run and capitalized through four quarters, claiming victory 50-29 against Howland at The Home of The Cavs. The second time around, the host site for this matchup was at the friendly confines of Austintown-Fitch High School!
The Tigers were looking to give The Falcons a receipt for what went down in Cleveland and one look across the Howland faces and you could tell, this matchup would be different. Fitch attempted to repeat what happened in their last matchup, grabbing an early 4-0 lead off back-to-back buckets. The Tigers own John Perry showed plenty of fight against the size of Fitch in the post, establishing himself offensively early on to try and space the floor for Howland. Austintown got the gym fired up off a beautiful alley-oop pass from Marcel Finkley which was effectively slammed home by Allen Hill; However, The Tigers would keep the pressure on defensively to give their offense more opportunities to start, allowing Howland to hold a slim 9-8 lead after one quarter of play. Coming off the bench,
Connor During provided great minutes for The Tigers, contributing 10 points in the first half himself! But The Falcons would find a little more of their tempo in the second quarter, with guys like Marcel Finkley and Gianni Maley starting to find their shot, thus allowing Fitch to find themselves in front of a back-and-forth battle at halftime 22-18.
Defense would come to the forefront to start the third quarter, with all offense running cold for both squads. Points were at a premium due to the high volume of live-ball turnovers that would be created from both teams.
Fitch maintained their lead after winning the low scoring third quarter 8-5 to take a 30-23 lead into the final eight minutes. Howland would immediately start on the comeback trail in the fourth with a three pointer connecting from Alex Henry to instantly cut the deficit down for The Tigers. Battling all the way back, Howland reclaimed the lead in the final minute of the fourth with a clutch corner three from Ben Bronson to give them a 37-35 lead with less than a minute to go.
Fitch would take the possession, pass it around before calling a timeout with 2.6 seconds remaining on the game clock. It would happen to be two seconds too many that were left by Howland, as Fitch sophomore Carter Owens took the inbound pass, quickly got the turn around and……ballgame! “The Perfect 10” nailed down a perfect three the buzzer beater to send The Falcon Faithful home happy, giving Fitch the 38-37 conference win!
Following the loss it will be right back to work for Howland (6-5)(0-3) as they travel to Boardman (4-7)(0-2) on Saturday, January 14th. After the thrilling victory, Fitch (8-4)(3-1) looks to keep pace in the AAC, but some non-conference pit stops are ahead. The first being a home matchup where The Falcons will host Suburban League representative, The Copley Indians (6-5) on Tuesday, January 17th. Interviews with Fitch Head Coach Brian Beany and Player of The Game Carter Owens can be found below!
*Contributed By YSN’s Ty Bartell