Flashes earn first win of season against coach’s former team

CHAMPION – Against his former team, coach Ryan Fitch and Champion finally got off the schneid.

The Golden Flashes outlasted Pymatuning Valley, the school Fitch led for four seasons, in a double-overtime thriller at Champion High School, 76-65. Fitch said it was a bittersweet moment for him to get his first win against his old team.

“It was a double-edged sword, basically,” Fitch said. “I obviously wanted our kids to win at Champion, but I had a great four years at PV and everyone up there was absolutely fantastic to me. I want those kids to do well, too. It was nice to get us a win, but if they were playing any other night, I’d be cheering for those kids at PV.”

Champion couldn’t hold off the PV’s Quintin Ratliff down the stretch, as he hit a step-back 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Lakers a two-point lead, but Champion’s Lucas Nasonti traveled the length of the floor following a timeout to send the game into overtime on a layup.

“We just needed one defensive stop, and we just couldn’t seem to get it,” Fitch said. “On the second-to-last play of regulation, Ratliff just hit an unbelievable shot. He is a Division I athlete playing Division III basketball.

“I have to give credit to our freshman, Lucas Nasonti. We drew up a play to put our quickest guy going to the rim, and he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He took the ball to the front of the rim and didn’t back down, didn’t fade away – just laid it right in.”

PV’s Cory Mercer drained a field goal at the end of the first overtime to send it to another one, but the Golden Flashes pulled away in the second overtime, thanks in large part to a 8-of-12 performance at the charity stripe from Chris Miller, who recorded a team-high 23 points.

Fitch said the win should boost the morale of the Flashes and show them that they are steadily improving.

“We really needed that one tonight,” Fitch said. “We’re really struggling. We were getting better each game, but it just seemed like without a win, the gradual, little baby steps we were making weren’t sinking in with the kids. So, hopefully now that first one on the left-hand column will make us really believe in what we’re doing.”