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PIAA Preview: Forker finishing up time with father at Faith Christian

03/10/2023, 11:15am EST
By Owen McCue

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

Even before she suited up at Faith Christian, Bella Forker always had her father Dave as a coach.

Whether it was hopping into her older sister Ashley’s practices when Dave first made the move to the girls side at FCA, or having her father help out with her AAU teams in middle school, the youngest Forker child and her dad built a special bond over basketball.

She knows that time is winding down as her senior season starts to come to a close.

“It’s just been amazing to be with him all four years,” she said.

“Honestly, it’s very sad because he’s like my best friend. And just to kind of have this end — not that I’m ending an era or anything well actually I am ending an era — it is kind of sad just to be kind of done with him leading me in basketball in a new way. But I think it’s a new way to step into something greater and he won’t stop coaching me. It’ll be phone calls instead of on the court.”

Faith Christian's Bella Forker, above, has played for her father all four years of high school. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Dave, who spent decades coaching on the boys side, switched over to the girls team when Ashley played with the program from 2013-17 before a career at Central Connecticut State. Middle child Josh just wrapped up his junior season at Cairn after playing for the FCA boys.

The youngest of the Forkers is headed to D-I Merrimack next season but she isn’t quite done with her playing career at FCA. Bella and her classmates, some of whom have grown up with Dave as their coach as well, are eyeing a final run together.

Following a trip to the PIAA quarters in the Class A bracket last season, District 1 champion Faith Christian is ready to try to make some noise again in Class 2A this time. The Lions (21-6) host District 12 three seed Belmont Charter to open the state playoffs on Friday night at 7 p.m.. 

“We’re gonna work hard to have them ready and we’re going to go out swinging when we go out,” Dave Forker said.

Faith Christian went undefeated in the Bicentennial Athletic League this season and captured the league tournament, knocking off District 1-1A champion The Christian Academy in the championship game. The Lions went on to a District 1-2A title on Feb. 25 and have been gearing up for states in the meantime.

Forker  was one of two first team all-league players alongside fellow senior Mikayla Hissner. Senior Kendall Garber, whose father Jon is an assistant coach, was a second team all-league selection. The trio have played together since middle school along with Maddee Huber, who played down in South Carolina last season but reunited with the group for their senior seasons. 

“It was very exciting,” Bella said of the group’s two championships this season. “But I definitely had to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for getting me there and just allowing us to not only have the opportunity to play, but just the teammates he’s surrounded me with. It just makes every single experience way more fun. Just being on that platform is fun but without the right people there it isn’t as fun.”

Forker, Hissner and Garber already have the most wins by a sniper class in program history with a few more possibly to be added. 

Fellow senior Ava Lopes joined the team last season and Autumn Landis and Aubrey Sauers are two more pieces of the group that prides itself on sharing the ball and getting gritty on defense. 

“They’ve just all played together so long and it’s different connections,” Dave Forker said. “Like Bella playing with Kendall Garber on the back end of our defense. The two of them just click and cover each other and always seem to know where to be. Offensively, it just seems like they all know where each other needs to be to be effective and they all know where to find them in those spots.”

They hope their experience from last season’s deep playoff run can pay off even after moving up a classification.

“We’re definitely giving it everything we’ve got, but I wouldn’t say we’ve necessarily changed our mentality,” Bella said. “We’ve always worked hard but we’ve always had fun in the process.”

“We have this, ‘I care, but I also don’t care,’ mentality where we’re playing for each other and we’re playing just to make more memories and have fun in the process of winning.”

Bella earned the scholarship offer from Merrimack by chance in the Fall of 2021 when the coaching staff happened to walk by her at a tournament with the Lehigh Valley Fever & Force, caught a half and decided to come back and take a closer look.

She had interest from several D-II/D-III schools but in June, Bella committed to the school in North Andover, Mass., which will be a full Division I member for the first time next season.

“They love my court vision the most and that’s what I love about my game because I don’t really like to be a selfish player where I’m trying to get all the points,” Bella said. “I love being able to facilitate and I think me stepping into that role will just make me very comfortable in college.”

Though she prefers to differ to her teammates both on and off the court, Bella is certainly the type of talent that can lead a team to a deep run this time of the season.

Hissner has been a strong scorer for the Lions this season to shoulder some of the offensive burden. FCA’s other players have stepped up at times as well, certainly benefitting from Bella’s court vision. However, they also encourage her to take over games at times, which is something she’s embraced more in her senior campaign. 

At the beginning of the season, assistant coach David Brownwell started to tell Bella to play some, ‘playground ball.’ The phrase has helped her flip a switch at multiple times, particularly in the second half of games, when the Lions need her to hunt her own shot more.

“It’s basically his way of telling him to be selfish a little and just play my game of driving in and everything,” Bella said.

“They all know that Bella will find them if they get to the spots or if the defense does certain things and they all play off of that really well and encourage Bella to step up and be the player she needs to be,” Dave Forker said.

Bella said she and her father went out to try and take a peek at some of the teams they might run into in states in the weeks between the District 1 title game and Friday’s state opener. Dave said the two have checked in on the Merrimack men’s and women’s teams as well, as they both made deep runs in their conference tournaments.

They know that basketball bond won’t go away any time soon even after Dave is no longer her coach, but Bella is ready to soak in what looks to be a special final stretch of games with her father and her friends.

“We’d love to make it to the last game obviously,” Bella said. “I think that’s every team’s goal. Last year, was just so fun because of the chemistry we had. We could have made it farther, but I think that’s what every team would say as well. We’d like to play off of that and make it further than last year, but just being with these girls makes it so much more fun no matter where we end up.”

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