Convincing win boosts confidence of Ford City girls basketball team
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Members of Ford City's girls basketball team mentally prepared themselves Monday night for what they expected would be a down-to-the-wire clash with Apollo-Ridge, a program with a comparable record and an eye on improving its playoff position in Section 1-AA.
But by the middle of the second quarter, almost all anxiety had disappeared for Ford City, which solidified third place in Section 1-AA.
An 11-point lead after the first quarter combined with 13-point run in the second gave the Sabers (7-5, 3-2) plenty of room for a few late-game lapses in their 61-33 win over the visiting Vikings (7-6, 1-4).
“I went into this a little shaky, because I figured they'd be a threat,” sophomore combo guard Christina Davis said. “But once we got a lead, I had more confidence, and I knew we could do it.”
Davis and junior forward Allyson Cujas delivered a one-two punch from which Apollo-Ridge never recovered. The duo combined to score Ford City's first 25 points. Davis, who had 11 of those 25, created offense with drives through the lanes and along the baselines. Cujas used an almost unblockable turnaround jumper in the low post and drew shooting fouls in the paint.
Cujas headed to the locker room at halftime with 16 points, and Davis had 12. They finished with 24 and 18, respectively. Davis also had 10 rebounds, while Cujas grabbed nine.
“(Teammates) pass us the ball, and they want us to score,” Davis said. “It's a heavy burden sometimes because some days, I can't show up, and then I feel like it's all my fault if we have a bad day or I lose.”
The scoring opportunities spread to other Sabers once Apollo-Ridge began to incorporate full-court zone pressure in the second half. Six other Ford City players finished with field goals; Bethany Meyer led the group with six points.
Apollo-Ridge's aggressive defense, most notably its traps after missed shots, affected Ford City's offense, which began to rely more on transition play. The Sabers, who committed just six turnovers in the first half, had that many in the third quarter alone. Seven more followed in the fourth.
“We have our share of turnovers,” Ford City coach Al Davis said, “but they're in the right places. A lot of times, they're just weak with the ball, handling the ball.”
The Vikings struggled to capitalize as they endured their own possession problems. After a 14-turnover first half, they had 11 more giveaways in the second.
Apollo-Ridge coach Desiree Syster viewed the mistakes as aftermath of an injury- and illness-filled stretch for the Vikings. Starters Julia Demeno and Sarah Bonelli only recently returned — Bonelli scored six points, and Demeno added five.
“The press style is how we'd prefer to play,” Syster said. “We've just been so out of sync with girls out of the game that it's going to take awhile to get back.”
Freshman guard Megan Bonelli provided a bright spot in the loss, with 13 points. Syster lauded the first-year starter's maturity during this trying time for Apollo-Ridge, which has lost four in a row.
“We like the intensity we get out of her,” Syster said. “I had her for two years in junior high, so I'm not surprised by her.”
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