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Howland uses final stretch to pull away from Austintown Fitch in conference tilt

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Howland’s Anthony Massucci drives to the basket Friday night against Austintown Ftich’s Allen Underwood. Massucci scored a game-high 19 points in Howland’s 55-48 win.

AUSTINTOWN — There is an old adage that “basketball is a game of runs.” That was proven true in Friday’s All-American Conference tilt between Howland and Austintown Fitch.

What started as an 8-0 lead for the Falcons, quickly evaporated and turned into a 9-8 Howland lead. That trend continued back and forth for 32 minutes. The Tigers went on the game’s final run and got the win, taking down Fitch 55-48.

“It was a competitive game,” Falcons coach Brian Beany said. “Both teams went at each other pretty good. A game of runs. We had a run, then they answered our run. Late in the third, they made some big shots down the stretch. (Anthony) Massucci made some big 3s.

“I thought they hurt us on the boards, second-chance opportunities and they got some of those 50-50 balls on the ground that we weren’t able to get.”

Howland came out of the gates a little sluggish. That’s including the game’s leading scorer Massucci, who only had two points at halftime.

The Tiger offense missed a handful of easy buckets to start the game, but as Massucci began to warm up, so did the rest of the team.

“We made it tough,” Howland coach Dan Bubon said. “I think we missed three one-foot shots in the first four minutes and got down 8-0. Then we kind of got it under control and then they stretched the lead out again right before half. We came out and they jumped on us. We were down double digits, and then we played great.

“We settled down. We got Anthony going. When he gets going, we’re good. He only had two points at halftime and we made a conscious effort to post him up early because we thought he had an advantage inside. That got him going, then he stretched out and started to hit some 3s, then we were good.”

After a rough start to the 2022 portion of their schedule, with losses to Boardman and Harding, the Tigers have now won two in a row. Earlier in the week, Howland took down Louisville as well. As the tournament rapidly approaches, Bubon is preaching to the team to string wins together to get ready for the postseason.

Fitch entered the season with a large hole to fill after the graduation of Todd Simons. Beany has been asked plenty of times about how he’s gone about filling that hole. There’s no “filling” that hole, but there’s other ways of achieving success.

Namely, passing the reins over to the younger players.

“You don’t have that one kid out there that night in and night out will get you 18 to 20 every night, but we have a bunch of kids that can get you in the teens,” Beany said. “People say ‘How do you replace Todd?’ Well, you don’t do it with one kid, you use multiple kids. We’ve had that in some games where you know we’ve had a bunch of kids scoring double digits.

“I thought our freshman Carter Owens played really well tonight. That’s his first extensive varsity experience and he had like four 3s. We were trying to slowly integrate him into some stuff and we kind of let him loose tonight here a little bit. I thought he did well.”

Owens finished the night with 14. Allen Underwood scored 14 as well and Devin Sherwood had 12.

The Falcons (4-8, 1-2 AAC) head on the road this week and look to recover Tuesday against Copley, followed by Harding on Friday.

Up next, Howland (8-5, 1-2 AAC) continues its league schedule when they travel to Canfield on Tuesday. After dropping their first two league matches, Bubon says every game from here on out is a must win if they want the crown.

“The league is still young, everyone hasn’t played everyone once yet,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose any more league games if we want to really be in contention for it. So if it’s a league game, we need to win.”

But with Bubon’s “string wins together” approach, Friday’s game against Cardinal Mooney is just as important.

byauger@tribtoday.com

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