It’s a different class but the same elite ride for Faith Christian.
Last year, the Lady Lions advanced to the Class A PIAA elite eight. This year, after Tuesday night’s second-round win over District Four champion South Williamsport 35-28 in Pottsville, Faith (21-6) advanced to the elite eight in Class 2A. For the second straight game, Izabella Forker paced the Lions with 17 points. She also snared 14 rebounds.
On Friday, the Lions will face the winner of Wednesday’s late game between District Two champion Montrose and favored District 11 champion Marian Catholic.
Faith made history in its home first-round game, as it marked the Lions’ first-ever PIAA contest as a 2A team. It didn’t take long for the partisan crowd to realize that Faith was on its way to its first 2A PIAA win, a 45-7 pasting over District 12’s Belmont Charter.
The first four minutes Friday were sluggish; the Lions committed several unforced turnovers but held the Tigers to a lone point.
“Our defense is the key to everything. When we lock down on defense, that’s when our offense starts,” explained Mikayla Hissner. “It’s really cool seeing everyone being able to contribute to everything. If you miss a shot, you know your teammates have your back.”
“We weren’t expecting to get off to a slow start. But everything with us settles in on defense, not offense,” echoed Forker. “Once we play well on defense, our transition comes and we’re able to pass the ball well. Even some of those passes that were off, we had encouragement. That always helps. Our teammates were saying ‘The next one is good.’”
Faith put together a 10-point run to take a 10-1 lead after one. Belmont Charter didn’t hit a floor basket until the early second quarter, cutting the Lion lead to 12-3.
Faith responded with layups from Maddee Huber and Forker, and a jumper and three from Hissner to blow the lead open to 23-3 with 2:25 left in the half.
Hissner’s triple with 2:05 remaining in the third put the lead at 38-7 and started the running clock.
Forker’s 17 points led Faith. Autumn Landis tallied 10 points while Hissner added eight points and a pair of assists. Brooke Picciotti and Forker both had three assists.
Picciotti, Aubrey Sauers and Kam Pepkowski didn’t score, but head coach Dave Forker inserted them in the first quarter. It helped changed the game dynamic and get Faith rolling.
“Our depth is one of our biggest strengths because we can stay after teams and stay fresh. They have a drive and a battery that doesn’t turn off,” observed Coach Forker. “They’re good enough to start and the energy they bring off the bench takes us to another level.”
The Lions last played 13 days before in their district title win over Sacred Heart. Faith focused on “running and going over plays, especially on defense and working hard on offense,” Landis said.
“When we come into practice, we always have a good time and it’s fun. But we also know when to focus and get the work done,” Hissner added.
“You always know that if you don’t win game one, you don’t have a game two,” Coach Forker stated. “But as coaches, we have to look ahead a little bit. We had a 10-day practice window to cover a lot of things. A lot of the teams we could see, if we were blessed to win this one and move on, play a lot of zone. It may not have shown but we’ve been working on our zone offense. We had a little bit of rust to shake off.”
Faith hopes to hit the road for a few more games. Friday gave Forker, a 1,000-point scorer, and her fellow seniors one more home game.
“First, I want to thank Jesus for all that he has given us and the opportunities He has given me,” Bella Forker praised. The home game “was unexpected. We got a little nervous at first but that adrenaline that we get from the crowd makes it so much fun.
“I feel like we get hyped up from each other’s energy on the court, whether it’s home or away. Since we’re so connected, it’s easy to have fun out there,” she concluded.