Ford City girls win final home game
Ford City won its final girls basketball home game in school history Thursday with a 39-21 triumph over longtime rival Kittanning at Red Mihalik Gym.
The victory also sent veteran coach Al Davis out a winner in his final home game. Davis, 65, will retire at the end of the season.Kittanning (7-14, 5-9) was eliminated from WPIAL playoff contention after six consecutive years in the postseason in what turned out to be the school's final girls basketball contest.
Ford City (17-3, 12-3) is in the playoffs for the 20th consecutive season. The win also earned the Sabers third place in Section 1-AAA behind Mars and Hampton.
It was Ford City's only season as a Class AAA school.“We knew we had to win a lot of close games this year,” Davis said of his team's successful jump in classification. “A lot of these teams that are below us didn't win the close games, and that was the secret.”
During the two decades of playoff trips, Ford City has won 380 games, an average of 19 victories per season.
Both teams turned in a solid defensive effort.
Ford City honored all of its previous coaches and all players who exceeded the 1,000-point career scoring mark.
The Sabers held Kittanning without a field goal until junior Tayla Wolfe finally found the range with 3:12 left in the third period.
Freshman Kenzie Lasher led Ford City with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Senior Christina Davis, one of the area's leading scorers, was held to nine points.
“We want to keep the rivalry with Kittanning as the rivalry it deserved to be,” Davis said. “We played hard, and there was no let up. Wish we would have shot a little better, but their defense was outstanding.”
The Sabers were held to just 15 points in the first half and were limited to a single foul shot.
Ford City began to pull away as the second half opened. A three-point play by Lasher gave the Sabers their first double-digit lead, 18-6, just 65 seconds into the third quarter.
Lasher's basket with 2:17 left in the final quarter gave Ford City a 34-16 advantage.
Davis then began clearing his bench, and sophomore Sierra Aires' foul shot with 51.9 seconds to go gave Ford City its biggest lead, 37-16.
The last Ford City basket at its historic gym was made by reserve Taylor Wood with 10 seconds to go.
Wolfe tallied the final points in Kittanning girls history, a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer.
“It's exciting to get the last points, but Emily (Klingensmith) passed it to me, so I have to give her credit,” Wolfe said.
“It's bittersweet, but we've made a lot of memories over the past few years.”
Ford City's Tyree Freeman contributed 13 rebounds as the Sabers outrebounded the Wildcats, 32-24.
Kittanning committed just one turnover in the third quarter, and Ford City committed one miscue in the second half and eight for the game.
The final boys game at the gym, built in 1938 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration, will be Monday when the Sabers host Knoch in a playoff tune-up.
Ford City and the other playoff contenders will be issued their tournament brackets Tuesday at the Green Tree Radisson.
George Guido is a freelance writer.