Freeport edges Ford City in season finale
FORD CITY -- Ford City's 69-63 loss to Freeport Friday night seemed like a replay of the Sabers' Section 1-AA season.
The Sabers played a competitive style early, fell behind and tried to rally only to come up short in the end.
"They showed a lot of heart and character like they have all season long," Ford City head coach Jim Callipare said. "They played their hearts out, it just wasn't enough."
Freeport (10-10, 6-8) won three of its final four, including an upset of Burrell that knocked the Bucs out of WPIAL playoff contention. The Yellowjackets finished at .500 in coach Mike Beale's first full season on the bench after longtime head coach Garrie Davies stepped down in the offseason. Beale coached for a year during Davies' reign when he took a one-year sabbatical and took the team into the playoffs.
"It was a big transitional year for all of us with the seniors, the coaching staff and having a lot of young players involved in the program," Beale said. "I'm happy for the seniors, they are a very loyal and dedicated group to have that stuck it out with us and showed a lot of leadership."
Ford City ended the season 11-13 overall and 5-9 in section play.
"This game was pretty much a summary of our whole season," Callipare said. "Every time it looked like we were going to turn the corner and good things were going to happen, something bad would happen."
Ford City shot 18 of 37 from the free-throw line in their season finale.
Ford City guard Aaron Bell, who missed a substantial part of the season due to injury, led all scorers with 21 points. He scored 15 points in the first eight minutes as the Sabers grabbed a 23-19 advantage.
Freeport guard Brady Sherrieb scored 19 points to lead four Yellowjackets in double figures.
"It took us the first quarter to get established up here," Freeport head coach Mike Beale said. "There was a lot of emotion for both sides, but once we got situated, we started to get into out flow a little bit and executed offensively the way we know how."
Sherrieb and Matt Caripolti each drained three 3-pointers to, five of which came in the first half, as Freeport overcame the early deficit to take a 45-34 lead at the intermission. The Yellowjackets defense also pressured Ford City in the second quarter, limiting the Sabers to 3 of 19 shooting from the floor.
"We knew that (Mark) Troyan and (Ryan) Eckman were definitely their two shooters and we tried to stay with them on the perimeter," Beale said. "Our two defenders did a real nice job switching out on them and not giving Troyan and Eckman good looks at the hoop."
Eckman finished the game with 13 points, the only Ford City player other than Bell with more than 10, while Troyan was limited to one 3-pointer and seven points overall.
Ford City put together several key runs in the second half and erased a deficit that went as high as 13 points to tie the score at 60 on Bell's runner in the lane with 2:45 remaining in the game.
The Sabers, however, could not reclaim their first lead since 5:34 remained in the second quarter.
On Freeport's next possession, Nate Kotecki, scored a basket for two of his 11 points to put the Yellowjackets back in front, then Caripolti drilled his only 3-pointer of the second half to put Ford City back into a 65-60 hole with 1:56 to play.