Lions don’t duck fights.
The Faith Christian Lion girls (14-3) could have picked a cupcake for their Monday Senior Night.
Instead, 2A Faith battled a formidable foe in Class 4A Villa Joseph Marie. The host Lions rebounded well but ultimately couldn’t overcome eight VJM threes in the Jems’ 44-34 victory. VJM never trailed yet it was a two-possession game with 2:00 remaining.
“We knew they would be challenging,” said Izabella Forker, a Merrimack commit. “We lost to them last year. But I was excited for the competition. We knew they would swing the ball well and we would have to play good defense and work our hardest.”
The Lions, unbeaten in the Bicentennial League, have played a rough non-conference slate to prepare for the playoffs. They topped 6A Boyertown 34-33 on Dec. 12. They close the regular season by hosting 5A Gwynedd Mercy (16-3) and Lansdale Catholic, who has two decisive wins over playoff-bound 6A teams.
“We’re definitely biting off a little more than we can chew,” Faith coach Dave Forker reflected, “but we won’t see anything at that level when we get into districts. It will be good for us if we can work our way through. Having said that, those will be two really tough games.”
Karleigh Garber blocked a shot that led to an Autumn Landis three as the first quarter ended, cutting the Jem lead to 13-10. Izabella Forker’s 3-point play, Landis’ putback and Forker’s bucket produced a 7-0 run that tied the game at 17.
Ava Gumienny countered with her first of four triples and the Jems led 25-19 at halftime. A Forker run-out and a Mikayla Hissner three trimmed the lead to 33-28 late in the third. Gumienny answered with two threes to close the quarter.
“We left their shooter too many times and when we did, we got burned,” Coach Forker admitted. “It’s good for us to experience so we can continue to work and get better. (Gumienny) hit a lot of key shots.
“A lot of credit to Villa Joseph Marie. They played really well,” the coach continued. “We just couldn’t put a run together. We’d make a couple of good plays: get a stop, get a score, get a steal and then come down and turn it over or miss a good shot. VJM wouldn’t let us put it together.”
“Tonight, we didn’t play our best defense,” assessed Garber who had four blocks. “Obviously it showed. Whenever we’re in practice, we work on communication and getting low. We scout the other team so we do whatever we need to do in practice to come out strong.”
Forker had 16 points and a double-double. Hissner added eight.
Last season, Faith didn’t suffer a Class A – or 2A – loss until the elite eight of the PIAA tournament. While Faith is playing up this year – the Lions played at A last season – the results are more of the same.
“We’re all so close,” Garber said. “When we’re off the court and step on, there is no difference in between the two.”
Faith, who rebounded Tuesday to thump Dock Mennonite 53-15, is 10-0 against its A, 2A and 3A opponents, with an average victory margin of 23 points. Faith’s three 4A wins – against MaST Charter, Pope John Paul II and Collegium Charter – were all by at least eight points.
“We’re deep and can bring a lot of energy coming off of the bench,” Coach Forker assessed. “We have five great seniors and good chemistry as a team. It’s a special group. As a coach, I don’t deal with drama. I have great kids and great families. I’m really blessed by God to have what I have.”
Bella Forker concurred. “We can be joking around on the floor. We’re not too serious but at the same time we are all competitive and want to play hard for each other,” she said.
Two teams from 2A will advance from District One to the PIAAs. Faith will be favored in its semifinal; the Lions topped the other likely finalist, Sacred Heart, by one on Opening Night.
“We enjoy spending time together and basketball is a great excuse to do that,” Coach Forker concluded. “And when the lights come on, the girls want to compete.”