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Ray’s 21 points leads Fitch past Boardman

Staff photo / Neel Madhavan Austintown Fitch’s Ayla Ray goes up for a layup Wednesday night against Boardman. Ray scored a game-high 21 points.

AUSTINTOWN — On a game-to-game basis, Austintown Fitch head coach Jeff Wilson is always looking for one of his players to step up and be that second scorer behind Zayda Creque.

In recent games, Kara Pirone has stepped up to the plate, but on Wednesday against Boardman, Ayla Ray rose to the occasion.

Ray scored 21 points against the Spartans, with 17 coming after halftime, to lead the Falcons to a 54-48 win over Boardman.

“Having that second girl that has the ability to score is such a great thing,” Wilson said. “I was telling the girls in the locker room, when Ayla and Kara over the last couple nights are hitting shots, it takes some pressure off Zayda and it allows us to get more open looks. But, Ayla did a great job attacking the basket and hitting some free throws for us.”

The defenses controlled things early as both teams struggled to score in the first half, especially in the opening minutes of the first and second quarters.

Boardman eventually built an early 7-2 lead, but the Falcons finally got their offense going after the midway point of the quarter — going on a 9-1 run to end the period.

The offensive woes spilled into the second quarter as neither team was able to score a point for the first 4:00 of the period until Ray got Fitch back on the board.

“We’re really young — four of our players right now are freshmen that you saw on the floor tonight,” Boardman head coach Brett Green said. “We had three of them that were playing. We had another injury yesterday for one of our players that plays (minutes) for us. But, as far as our girls go, they just continue to fight and we know that whoever’s in the game just has to play.”

The second half featured a flurry of points from both teams as their offenses came alive. Fitch scored 35 second half points with 19 coming in the third quarter, while Boardman managed 34 points in the second half and 19 in the fourth quarter.

“I feel that we attacked better through the defense and attacked the rim better,” Wilson said. “Sometimes we hesitated in the first half with attacking the basket. We always say that when you attack the basket, good things can happen. Either you’re going to finish or you’re going to get fouled or you kick it out for a shot.”

Mackenzie Riccitelli led the Spartans with 13 points. Cami Goske also had nine for Boardman and Emma Mills had nine. Behind Ray’s 21, Creque had 17 for Fitch.

“I think the emotion and intensity changed in the second half from the first half,” Green said. “There was more fight in the second half and more of a willingness to just finish.”

Turnovers also took their toll on the Spartans and they gave the ball away 16 times against the Falcons.

“We do pretty well when we are in our diamond press, falling back to man or a 2-3,” Wilson said. “I just told them to keep up the intensity and to keep attacking because at halftime we’d only given up 14 points.”

Back-to-back-to-back threes from Ray, Pirone and Creque late in the fourth quarter proved to be the dagger to Boardman’s faint hopes as it tried to claw back late.

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