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Ford City suffers loss in test vs. Neshannock

| Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, 11:27 p.m.

Ford City challenged itself by hosting one of Class AA's top teams, and the Sabers got a good look at why Neshannock is so highly regarded.

After a slow start offensively, Neshannock dominated after halftime and left Ford City with an 87-45 nonsection win Monday night.

Matt McKinney scored 22 points, and Ernie Burkes added 21 for the Lancers (6-1), whose only loss was to Class AAA No. 3 Central Valley.

Blake Bower and Jesse Sequeira scored 11 points each for the Sabers (4-4).

“I'm going to let our guys know, when we make the playoffs this year, this is the type of team we could possibly play,” Ford City coach Greg Hutcherson said. “I think we thought we would be able to compete (Monday), but we weren't able to compete. They basically kicked our butts.”

The opening nine minutes went well for the Sabers. They did a good job rebounding, and early in the second quarter, Noah Nulph and Jon Karabin knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game 18-18.

But the Lancers found their rhythm, as McKinney knocked down two 3-pointers to fuel a 10-0 run that helped Neshannock take a 35-23 lead to halftime.

“Overall, I thought we played really well,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “We didn't shoot the ball well in the first half, except for Matt McKinney.

“We probably gave up about four or five offensive rebounds early, too, and that's a credit to (Ford City). They came out playing really hard.”

Neshannock put the game away in the third quarter by outscoring Ford City, 31-10.

The Lancers used turnovers to get easy baskets and also excelled at the foul line, knocking down 20 of 22 attempts.

Neshannock was able to get to the line so often by getting the ball inside against the 3-2 zone employed by the Sabers. The zone was effective in the early stages, but by the second half, the Lancers were finding seams they didn't take advantage of earlier.

“They made a good adjustment to our zone, got some open looks and knocked them down early in the third,” Hutcherson said. “They separated themselves then, and a team like that isn't going kill themselves. They weren't going to do anything to let us get back in the game.”

Said Corey: “Our guys remained steady, and the outcome came out the way we wanted it.”

Though the score indicates a heavy setback for Ford City, Hutcherson said he hopes his players can grow from the experience of Monday's game and the coming weekend, when the Sabers will compete in Freeport's Christmas Tournament.

“We're just working to get better and better for our section season,” Hutcherson said. “Hopefully, when we go down to Freeport, we can do well there and get some momentum for the second half (of the season).”

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

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