Forest Hills dispatches of Bedford, again

SIDMAN — After defeating No. 4 Bedford Thursday night, 44-22, the Forest Hills girls basketball team will once again have a chance to earn a district crown this Saturday in the District 6 Class 4A title game.

The returning finalists have won a District 6 title in seven of its last nine seasons, including four straight.

While it was able to come away with the convincing win in the District 6 semifinal, No. 1 Forest Hills struggled on offense for most of the game, with countless missed opportunities from the field.

With the stakes only rising from here, Rangers coach Carol Cecere said her team needs to refocus heading into the district championship and eventual state playoffs.

“I think the loss to Bishop Carroll shook them,” Cecere said in reference to the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference semifinal loss Feb. 14. “We missed eight inside shots in the first half of the game, and of those, four were offensive boards but four were nice looks at the basket. That’s what happened against Bishop Carroll.”

The Rangers held just a five-point lead after one quarter against Bedford, but time of possession was heavily in the Rangers’ favor.

Finding open looks and creating opportunities, Forest Hills simply failed to finish for much of the game.

“We’ve actually struggled a lot on offense this year,” Rangers senior Victoria Koeck, who had eight points, said. “It seems like we can’t execute, but we work really hard. I think we just have to pick each other up, say ‘it’s OK, let’s get the next one’ and just keep working at it.”

Some halftime adjustments and a bit of a pep talk from Cecere got the Rangers back in gear on offense, but Bedford, which has lost to Forest Hills in the playoffs four years in a row, did not go away.

Bison senior guard Lindsay Shuke began finding open lanes and picked up 11 points in the second and third stanza, closing the deficit and sparking some hope in her Bedford squad.

Cecere countered Shuke’s run, but as a result, the Rangers lost a key contributor to the defensive effort.

“It took us a while to get some offensive flow,” Cecere said. “We had Jordyn Smith playing on Shuke. When you take one of your big scorers and you play them defensively to shutdown another big scorer, sometimes you lose some of that offense.”

With Smith playing defense and the Bison keying in on senior Carly Stigers, several second-string players were inserted into the game to help jump-start the Ranger scoring attack.

“I keep saying to my young girls ‘you got to start making your mark,'” Cecere said. “Every time Carly has the ball, she’s being pressured a lot and is always contested. Somebody else has to score.”

Cecere’s daughter, Maddie, helped bridge that gap, netting 13 points and paving the way on offense.

“We had tons of opportunities,” Maddie Cecere said. “To get us going, my mom told us we need to finish and that we should be ahead by a lot more than we are. She just has confidence in us. We were able to come back out and then we hit six straight shots.”

Shuke led her team with 13 points, accounting for more than half of the Beford offense.

Bedford coach Mark Dillow said that if it weren’t for a nagging flu that was being passed amongst the team, Shuke could have contributed even more.

“She said she was feeling kind of fluish,” Dillow said. “I had it. I was out all last week with it … She was dragging a little bit.”

Offensive struggles were shared on both sides of the court, with Bedford struggling at shooting efficiency from the field as well.

Playing against what he considered one of the top teams in the area, Dillow was still pleased with his team’s efforts in the loss.

“We were playing against the premier. This is Laurel Highlands premier when you’re playing Forest Hills and some of these teams,” Dillow said. “But our kids fought, and they battled. We just couldn’t finish.”

FOREST HILLS (44): Cecere 4 2-5 13, Koeck 4 0-0 8, Stigers 2 3-4 8, Stohon 2 2-2 6, J. Smith 1 0-2 2, Burda 1 0-0 2, Croyle 0 0-0 0, Zajdel 0 0-0 0, Stains 0 0-0 0, R. Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals–14 7-13 44.

BEDFORD (22): L. Shuke 4 4-4 13, Brown 1 1-3 3, Thomas 0 2-2 2, J. Shuke 1 0-0 2, Lippincott 1 0-0 2, Davidson 0 0-0 0, Hagenbuch 0 0-0 0. Totals–7 7-9 2.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Forest Hills 9 13 9 13 — 44

Bedford 4 6 8 4 — 22

3-point field goals: Forest Hills 3 (Stigers, Smith, Cecere); Bedford 1 (Shuke).

Records: Forest Hills (19-3); Bedford (9-14)

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