Ford City guard nearly sets school record
Friday night's tip-off tournament game between host Ford City and United introduced a sizeable collection of first-time starters to Sabers fans, but for the most part, it showcased the skills of the home team's most proven player.
Senior Jon Shanty, the lone full-time starter to return for Ford City, exploded for 40 points during the Sabers' 67-41 win over District 6's United in the season opener. He scored 30 points in the second half, 24 of which came from 3-pointers. He finished with 10 3-pointers -- just three short of the school record -- and made all eight of the free throws he attempted.
"I don't think I've ever scored 30 points," said Shanty, who fell one point short of tying the school record, set by Chris Zilla in 1995. "Tonight was just my night. ... I was definitely on my game and real comfortable shooting.
"I think everybody handled their first game well. A lot of new guys haven't played varsity basketball. They're all from football. And different sports have different atmospheres. So these guys did a good job with that."
Shanty's 3-pointer just before halftime sent Ford City (1-0) into the locker room with a 31-15 lead. Two of Ford City's newer faces, first-year coach Greg Hutcherson and senior Hunter Bower, a first-year member of the team, walked behind most of the team after the halftime buzzer sounded and smiled wide as they spoke.
Hutcherson, a head high school basketball coach for the first time, had little to complain about during the win. His team used his up-tempo offense and full-court pressure schemes to build a 12-6 lead through the first quarter and rarely relented thereafter.
"Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous for the game," Hutcherson said. "I was more anxious and confident. ... These guys made it easy... I give them all the credit."
About Shanty's performance, the coach said: "I told him before the game, 'This is your gym. Go put a show on.' ... Jon went out and did what he's supposed to do. ... Hopefully he can continue to play at that high level."
Senior Tyler Nuzzo, who saw significant minutes as a junior, started the Sabers' scoring with three consecutive baskets. He scored 8 of his 11 points in the first quarter.
Junior Dave Lattanzio, another of the team's few players with varsity experience, scored seven of his nine points in the first half.
Bower, like many of Ford City's newcomers, didn't have much luck scoring; the 6-foot-5 forward finished with two points. But his thunderous block midway through the first quarter highlighted an impressive defensive performance by the Sabers, who held their opponent to just 23 points through three quarters and whose pressure led to 24 United turnovers.
Senior guard Martin Brison, another first-year member of the high school program, made life difficult for United's backcourt with his constant pestering.
While Brison, nicknamed "Honey Badger" after LSU football defensive standout Tyrann Mathieu, enjoyed watching his opponents throw the ball away and struggle to run their offense, he loved Shanty's shooting spectacle just a little more.
"To see Jon going off like that, it was real fun being out there," Brison said, "just watching him go nuts, straight cashews."