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Ford City boys basketball eyes turnaround

| Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Ford City's Jesse Sequeira drives down court while working on drills and skill at a recent practice. Thursday November 21, 2013

Ford City is set on the idea of having a bounce-back boys basketball season, and the pieces are in place to do it.

The Sabers return a handful of experienced players, and they hope that will help the team return to the WPIAL playoffs after missing out with a 6-15 record last season.

It will be the third season for Ford City under coach Greg Hutcherson, and while his first Ford City team reached the playoffs, he said he feels as though this group might be the first that is fully comfortable with his system and style of play.

“The first year, I got the job late, and even last year guys were still learning the system,” Hutcherson said. “This should be the breakout year because the kids have bought into the system and have really been working hard. We're looking for a big year.”

Senior guard Jesse Sequeira has started every year under Hutcherson, and he is the Sabers' top scorer returning at more than 12 points per game. Hutcherson said Sequeira will be a big factor, but the strength of Ford City might lie in the frontcourt.

The Sabers boast a sizeable front line with 6-foot-6 sophomore Brandon Heilman, 6-3 junior Blake Bower and 6-4 senior Mike Foster. Heilman, who also plays AAU ball for Hutcherson, is a player his coach said will be a Division I prospect in two years with his size and the rate his game has developed.

With that sort of height, Ford City will put an emphasis on inside play, especially in its own end.

“We kind of revamped our defense. We want to be more physical on the defensive end of the court and control the boards,” Hutcherson said. “If you control the boards, then nine times out of 10 you're going to control the game.”

The Sabers also have experience returning from junior guard Noah Nulph, a tough defensive player, and senior forward Cody Peppler, who was the football team's leading receiver.

“Luckily for us, we only had one player play football, but Cody is a senior that's going to play a big role for us,” Hutcherson said. “The rest of this group, we've had them together in the summer. We played in the Greensburg Central Catholic fall league and the Fox Chapel shootout. In all, we've had almost 40 or 50 games with the whole team there, and we don't have guys still recovering from football injuries.”

Having that continuity among his group bodes well for Ford City's chances to be strong out of the gates, but it will face a tough task once section play begins. Section 1-AA is home to two of last year's semifinalists — runner-up Burrell and Apollo-Ridge — while West Shamokin, Deer Lakes and Summit Academy round out what might be an unpredictable group.

“Our section never gets any credit, but what Burrell and Apollo-Ridge did last year probably opened some eyes,” Hutcherson said. “Deer Lakes and Burrell obviously lost a lot, but there's still a lot of size, talent and tough teams in the section.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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