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Ford City wins battle of scorers

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 10:46 p.m.
Ford City forward Allyson Cujas fights for positioning down low during a win at Kittanning on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Cujas finished with 25 points.
Kittanning guard Emily Knepshield brings the ball upcourt during a home loss to Ford City on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Knepshield finished with 24 points.
Louis B. Ruediger
Kittanning's Taylar Wolfe (left) and Ford City's Andrea Digregorio scramble for a loose ball in the first half at Kittanning High School. Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times

Once they asserted themselves in the offensive end Thursday night, Kittanning junior guard Emily Knepshield and Ford City junior forward Allyson Cujas turned the slow-going nonsection game between the injury-ravaged Wildcats and underclassman-laden Sabers into the kind of rivalry-fueled thriller fans had desired.

A second-half scoring surge by Cujas helped Ford City hang on to win, 46-41, at Kittanning. The 5-foot-10 junior scored 21 of her game-high 25 points in the second half and also finished with 17 rebounds. Knepshield, no less impressive, added 22 of her team-high 24 points in the final two quarters.

“I'm not surprised by her play,” Cujas said of Knepshield. “She is probably one of the best players I've ever seen.”

Cujas scored the game's first basket just 21 seconds into the first quarter and added another bucket in the paint early in the second for the Sabers (6-5), who led, 17-11, at the midway point.

Knepshield, meanwhile, managed a layup in the right lane early in the opening quarter and remained quiet thereafter.

Sophomore Alaina Thomas paced Kittanning (6-7) for most of the half as she scored the team's final bucket of the first quarter and drained two 3-pointers to provide the Wildcats their only second-quarter points.

Christina Davis served as Ford City's sophomore answer to Thomas. A putback and two layups gave Davis a team-high six points at the break. She finished with eight points and eight rebounds.

“This has proven to be a growing year for us,” Ford City coach Al Davis said. “Kittanning played with a lot of injuries, and we were lucky enough to squeeze a win out.”

In the opening half, Ford City made seven of 30 attempts from the floor and had eight turnovers. Kittanning, which lacked three regular starters because of injuries, was four for 24 and committed nine turnovers.

Enter Knepshield, who in the second half began to attack the right lane and create scoring opportunities. She scored on a floater, a putback and five free throws in the third quarter. In the fourth, she also proved herself as an outside threat by draining two 3-pointers.

“The girls in the first half were taking it over and hitting their shots, and I knew that I had to do my part, so I knew I had to step it up,” Knepshield said.

Cujas countered with short jumpers off the glass, putbacks and free throws. She made nine of 10 shots at the line, including her first eight.

Knepshield's first 3-pointer cut Ford City's lead to 41-38 with 47 seconds left. Her second brought the deficit to two points with 34 seconds remaining. Kittanning forced turnovers in Ford City's end twice in the final 30 seconds but failed to convert the chances into points.

“I told them it's a process,” Kittanning coach Janelle Kotyk said of her lineup newcomers, who included freshman Taylar Wolfe and sophomore Emily Klingensmith.

“It's not going to be a night and day thing. They're going to have to do some growing, and it's a learning curve. They were thrown into the fire pretty quick, and so far, they're doing a nice job with it.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BWest_Trib.

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