CALCUTTA -Hard work pays off. For the Beaver Local Beavers, that work has guaranteed them one thing this year- a winning season, ensured by a 64-60 win over Austintown Fitch on Friday night.
"We kept pushing it and closing out on defense to keep them from shooting the threes because that was killing us," said Beaver Local senior Troy Hudson, who scored 17 points. "We have been working hard in practice every day, the wins have definitely given us some momentum and we are figuring out how to win the close games."
Fellow senior Zack Mick scored a game-high 24 points, including a trio of three-pointers, to go along with eight rebounds to lead Beaver Local.
The Beavers improve to 12-10.
"We couldn't have done it tonight without our teammates," Mick said "Everybody stepped up tonight and games like this help us prepare for the tournament."
Up by 10 heading into the final quarter, the Beavers withstood a fourth quarter rally that saw the Falcons briefly take the lead at 57-56 with 1:24 remaining.
A. FITCH: 15-16-8-21 - 60
B. LOCAL: 18-8-23-15 - 64
A. FITCH SCORING: Jessie Driver 2-1-5, Gabe Chepke 7-2-16, Mike Butcher 5-0-15, Alex Defrancesco 4-3-11, Quincy Higgins 5-0-10, Curtis Beverly1-1-3. TOTALS: 24, 7-15: 60
B. LOCAL SCORING: Chase Hilliard 2-2-7, Brandon Fetty 1-3-5, Jared Lyder 2-1-5, Ethan Campbell 0-0-0, Troy Hudson 6-5-17, Zack Mick 9-3-24, Chandler Cornell 0-0-0, Josh Underwood 2-0-4, Matt Chamberlain 1-0-2. TOTALS: 23, 14-26: 64.
Three-pointers: Austintown Fitch 5 (Butcher 5), Beaver Local 4 (Mick 3, Hilliard).
Beaver Local countered with a Mick basket and a Brandon Fetty conventional three-point play to pull ahead.
"That's a hard-fought game, they (Fitch) are a big team to go up against and we don't have a lot of size," Beaver Local coach Jake Walgate said. "But the kids came out and they were dedicated to what they were doing, and kept battling the whole game."
The transformation that the Beavers have undergone this season has turned them into a winning basketball club. After past seasons of futility, the workman attitude that present and past players have exhibited has put a foundation for their current success.
"It's just been hard work if you look back a couple years ago, we had teams they didn't have the best record when we were 0-21 and just had six wins another year, but those kids really started it," Walgate said. "They decided every day when they set foot on the court, weather was practice or game, that they were going to give 100 percent."
The Beavers attacked the Falcons, getting easy baskets by slashing through the Fitch defense.
"We were terrible, it's a blunt word to use but we stunk," Austintown Fitch coach Brian Beany said. "We couldn't stay in front of anybody for most of the game, we didn't block out well at the end and we missed some free throws."
The miscues from the Falcons opened the door for the Beavers in the fourth quarter, and their effort and situational work in practice allowed them to capitalize on given opportunities. The Falcons missed four of seven free throws in the fourth quarter.
"You can do all the situations you want in practice, but until you have to go through them in a game, it's really not going to sink in," Walgate said. "Every year we are breaking down situations and going over things and tonight we actually had to put that to use. We knew what we needed to do and we came out and executed the things that we've always been working on."
Chase Hilliard added seven points for Beaver Local while Jared Lyder and Brendon Fetty each netted five.
"It just came down to being able to stay focused and get through the game," Walgate said. "We've had some games where we didn't keep our focus the whole game but tonight they showed that if the end of the season and things are starting to come together."
Austintown Fitch won the jayvee game 56-37. Chandler Cornell paced the Beavers with 12 points.