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Michalowski: Aidan Fisch’s Final Bucket in ‘The Pete’ Symbolized the Return of Pitt Basketball



PITTSBURGH — Pitt led by 15 points with less than 20 seconds to go. The Panthers had just hung 97 points on Syracuse — and four of the five seniors scored in double digits in the winning effort.

While Pitt had held back on several of the last possessions of the game, now that senior Aidan Fisch was in the game, the goal changed. Now, the Panthers shifted their focus to getting Fisch a bucket.

After Blake Hinson grabbed an offensive rebound with 20 seconds on the clock, he immediately pivoted to find Fisch at the top of the key. The Murrysville, PA native had limited time — just seconds — to score the last bucket of his career in the Petersen Events Center. The same career that started as a high-school hopeful, playing for Franklin Regional on Pitt’s court for a 2018 WPIAL title. The same career that saw him transform from team manager to walk-on to now scholarship player with a chance to ignite the sold-out Pitt crowd one last time in his career.

Fisch delivered.

He took the pass from Hinson, dribbled twice, and carved his way through the lane for a left-handed layup over Syracuse big man Mounir Hima. The ball dropped through the net, and the place erupted.

“I saw the reaction when he hit the shot,” Capel said. “We all reacted that way. I mean, Fisch has meant so much to this program. To start as a manager and to earn the right to be a walk-on, he has the respect of everyone in that locker room. He’s a leader, he’s a believer, he’s a guy that shows up everyday, and he’s incredibly grateful and appreciative. For him to be able to have that moment, for those guys to look for him. When I saw that ball go through the basket, man, just the energy in the building, the fans, him, his teammates, it was one of the most special things that I’ve ever experienced as a coach.”

Capel showed as much emotion as he has all year long on the bucket, jumping in the air and smiling. The entire bench was jumping around like the fans, and shortly after, the whole team mobbed him as the buzzer sounded to celebrate.

“I’ve never done anything like that,” Cummings said about the celebration with Fisch. “That was probably the most fun thing I’ve ever did in my life. Pure adrenaline.”

Fisch paraded around the court and beat his chest. He had finished off the win that moved Pitt into first place in the ACC with just two games to go in the season.

While many other plays may have meant more in terms of winning this game, Fisch’s play with a 15-point lead and seconds left in the game symbolized more than just this one win. It symbolized the return of Pitt basketball.

“A guy like that inspires them, it shows what a great guy he is,” Capel said. “We have some really good guys in our program right now.”

This year’s team — one that has the program’s best record since the 2016 Tournament squad, has bonded through its love for winning together. The team started 1-3, with an ugly loss to its rival, West Virginia, and two more losses on a trip to Brooklyn for the Legends Classic. The Panthers were assembled largely through the transfer portal, bringing in three key contributors right before the season, as well as one junior college player.

It was not easy to get to this point, but through all of the experiences that this group has shared so far this year, the Pitt basketball program is in position to make history and win the ACC for the first time.

The program has done that through this group of talent, this group of winners, who is ready to make a run in March. This program is back on the map because of a culture rebuilt by Capel and his staff, headlined by players like Fisch.

“It was emotional for all of us,” Capel added. “I think you saw that. That shows what he means to our program.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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22 days ago

Great read George.

22 days ago

For the Fisch! Love it that he got the bucket!!

22 days ago

Capel is a coach any young man should want to play for!

22 days ago

What a great game. This team is peaking at the right time. H2p

19 days ago

Fisch’ end-of-game basket, and astounding team energy level that immediately followed, was a freakin awesome moment to watch!

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