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Forbes, McMichael lighting up the court for Butler

Butler’s Justine Forbes (10) at the top the key gets ready to pass the ball during the Golden Tornado’s 66-45 girls basketball win over Erie on Tuesday night, Dec. 6, 2022. Forbes had 20 points and eight rebounds in the contest. Ralph Lovuolo/Special to the Eagle
Combo deal

BUTLER TWP — One’s a senior, the other a sophomore.

One slashes to the hoop, the other posts up.

Both produce — often and in a lot of ways for the Butler girls basketball team.

Golden Tornado senior Justine Forbes and sophomore Amelia McMichael have combined to average 32.5 points, 14.5 rebounds per game so far this season. They’ve sunk 65 free throws and 70 3-point field goals as well.

“They’ve developed a real rapport on the court,” Butler coach Mark Maier said. “They play well together. They feed off each other’s skills.”

Butler’s Amelia McMichael (32) stands at the line to make a foul shot during the Golden Tornado’s 66-45 girls basketball win over Erie on Tuesday night, Dec. 6, 2022. Ralph Lovuolo/Special to the Eagle

Butler has won seven of its past nine games — including three in a row — entering Friday’s home section game against Seneca Valley. Forbes and McMichael learned the game through family members and have developed an appreciation for each other.

“If I drive to the hoop and my shot’s not there, I know where Amelia’s gonna be and I can kick it back out to her,“ Forbes said. ”One of us has to be open.“

McMichael agreed.

“I do the same thing,” she said. “I’ll take a pass inside and if the defense collapses in, I know I can find Justine,” she said.

“Having two players who can score inside or outside like that makes us a hard team to defend,” Maier said. “It’s opening up opportunities for other girls on the floor as well. Justine and Amelia are extremely versatile players.”

Forbes was a sophomore when her older sister, Sarayne, was a senior for Butler. The younger Forbes was a teammate of outside scoring threat Jordan Kauffman (now at Slippery Rock University) that same year. She played with Makenna Maier and Aubree Tack — both playing in the Division III Presidents’ Athletic Conference now — her junior year and is now meshing with McMichael and the rest of the Tornado’s talented sophomore class.

Butler’s sophomores did not lose a game in seventh or eighth grade.

“It’s just a matter of meshing with your teammates and learning how to play with them,” Forbes said. “Sarayne paved the path for me in basketball. I looked up to her. She showed me everything on the court. I learned a lot of different moves from her.”

McMichael’s father, Chris McMichael, played on Butler’s 1991 WPIAL championship team. She became a student of the game through her father.

“I’ve been playing basketball since I was 6,” Amelia McMichael said. “I learned a lot through playing in the Upward (non-profit youth sports) program. My dad taught me all of my moves in the post. I’m always working on my game.”

Besides practicing with her Butler teammates, McMichael lifts weights on her own and studies the game. She also spends time in the Butler gym alone, working on her free throws and 3-point shooting for an hour or so.

Through 16 games, she’s averaging 17 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest. She’s drained 40 treys, had five games of 19 or more points and four games of 10 or more rebounds.

“She’s not a workout freak, but Amelia works on her physical strength and improving her game,” Maier said. “She seems to get better with each game.”

Forbes is averaging 15.6 points and six rebounds per game. She’s hit 30 treys, has six games of 19 or more points and is shooting 71% from the foul line. She’s also averaging a couple of assists and steals per game.

“Justine is a consummate team player,” Maier said. “She’s become a leader this season and she’s enjoyed her career here.”

Forbes hopes to play college basketball at either Messiah or Saint Francis. She wouldn’t mind playing with this current group a while longer.

“There’s so much talent in that sophomore class,” Forbes said. “I know this ... In the next year or two, this team is going to be very, very good.”

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