Alessandroni, Spring-Ford seniors continue winning tradition

Photo by Austin Hertzog/Media News Group

By BARRY SANKEY

ROYERSFORD  - Gabs Alessandroni and the rest of the Spring-Ford High seniors wanted to continue the school's terrific tradition in girls basketball this year.

And those five seniors have helped the Rams do just that.

On Wednesday evening, Spring-Ford captured its third consecutive Pioneer Athletic Conference championship on the strength of a 47-39 victory over the Methacton Warriors at Spring-Ford Area High School's Ram Gymnasium.

Alessandroni and the rest of the Rams thus tied a school record of three straight league titles, a feat that has been accomplished twice before. She and the Rams will now set their sights on the District 1-6A playoffs, where Spring-Ford is the third seed behind Plymouth-Whitemarsh and Central Bucks West.

After that, there is the state tournament to look forward to, hopefully, for Ram Nation.

Defense has long been a trademark in Spring-Ford's girls basketball success. This year was no exception, and Alessandroni was one of the vital cogs in that scheme with her backcourt pressure.

"That (defense) really helped us out and is probably the reason we won," said Alessandoni. "We stepped up our defense. Our defense is the real strength of our team and has won us games."

Alyssa Yuan, Alessandroni, Skylar Sullivan, Emily Coyne and Rachel Rutkowski comprise the senior class on the 2019-2020 Spring-Ford squad.

The Rams were the top seed in this year's Franklin K. Manley Final Six playoffs that Spring-Ford hosted. Methacton was the third seed as the No. 2 team in the Liberty Division.

Spring-Ford's defensive pursuit limited Methacton to 14-for-43 shooting from the field for 33 percent. Spring-Ford shot 16-for-56 from the floor for 29 percent, but compensated in other areas of the game.

The Rams also won the rebounding battle, 39-26, with a 20-10 advantage on the offensive glass.

Junior guard Lucy Olsen scored a team-high 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, to tie with Yuan. Yuan pulled down eight of her 10 boards at the offensive end of the court while Olsen had four offensive rebounds.

Sullivan also had a productive night by scoring 11 points and yanking down nine rebounds (four offensive). Sullivan also handed out three assists, as did Olsen. Olsen and junior Abbey Boyer (nine points) each drilled three 3-point field goals while Sullivan and junior Mac Maloney canned one apiece.

Sophomore Nicole Timko (18 points, 3 3-pointers) and senior Sydney Tornetta (12 points, 1 3-pointer) paced the Warriors' scoring. Freshman guard Cassidy Kropp added seven points with one 3-pointer and three rebounds while handling the basketball out front. Senior Sydney Hargrove finished with seven rebounds (four offensive) and fellow senior Caroline Pellicano had eight rebounds (three offensive), one blocked shot and one steal.

Spring-Ford had a slim lead, 13-11, after the first quarter. But a big 17-8 burst during the second period enabled the Rams to take a 30-19 halftime lead. A 13-8 push in the third quarter put Spring-Ford up by 16 points, 43-27, heading into the final quarter.

"In practice, we stressed out help off the ball on Timko and Tornetta," said Alessandroni, who had two rebounds, two assists and one steal plus two points on one field goal. "We had to help to make sure we were on them."

Alessandroni said the Rams must continue to stay focused for their district and state playoff games.

"We weren't on," said Alessandroni. "Our outside shooting wasn't that great. We won the game with our rebounding. We focused on that."

Mickey McDaniel, the Spring-Ford head coach, talked about the Rams' play.

"We started cutting really hard on offense," said McDaniel. "We kicked it out to Abbey (Boyer) for a three. We made hard cuts and we were making excellent screens. We had good execution."

He said Spring-Ford's rigorous non-league schedule, which included a trip to Arizona to face  powerhouses last year (2-2) and then to Florida for some more stiff tests this year (2-1), prepares the Rams to make their annual strong stretch run in the playoffs each year.

"That's why we play the schedule we do," said McDaniel. "There is that pride factor (three straight PAC championships). There is passion and desire."

The Rams strive to improve each day as they face that high-level competition. The PAC title is the first tangible goal in the climb up the ladder.

A combination of seniors, juniors and sophomores have combined their talents to produce something special for their legacy with three titles in a row. There are five juniors and five sophomores on this year's team. McDaniel said some talented newcomers will be joining the squad next year when SF continues its schedule against some of the best teams around.

Methacton coach Craig Kaminski said the Warriors did not bring their 'A' game to the table in the championship contest.

"They (Rams) did some nice things against our zone," said Kaminski. "They made adjustments to prepare after the last time. They made more shots than we did. They had shooters. They shot well. You always do at your house.

"What really killed us was before the half they had a 12-4 run on us.  We were down four at 21-17 and then they scored 11 or 12 points, a bunch of points in a hurry. Spring-Ford also beat us in offensive rebounds. They had 20 offensive rebounds."

Kaminski thought Methacton appeared flat and did not want to engage in the way the Warriors performed. He used the example of the first three or four possessions of the game, when the visitors did not take a shot at the basket.

"Give credit to Spring-Ford," said Kaminski. "Congratulations to them. They raised their level of play that comes with the playoffs."

Methacton has now dropped the last three title games to the Rams and five overall to Spring-Ford. The Warriors also placed second to Boyertown twice. Five of the title games against SF have been played in Royersford.

Sullivan scored the first basket of the game at 5:32 on a fast-break layup. Methacton countered with 3-point shots by Timko from the right wing at 3:32. Yuan converted a driving layup and turned it into a 3-point play at 3:26. Kropp made a 3-point basket from the right wing, at 3:05 for a 6-5 Methacton lead.

But Olsen made her own 3-pointer from the left wing at 2:57. Alessandroni made a steal, Yuan grabbed a rebound and Alessandroni had a rebound. That led to a Sullivan field goal with an assist by Alessandroni.

Alessandroni had a deflection, that was followed by a Yuan rebound leading to an Olsen trey from the left wing at 1:36 that gave the Rams a 13-6 cushion.

After a rebound by Allison Hazlett, the Warriors closed the first period with a flourish. Timko drove to the hoop for a layup, took down a rebound and dropped in a long 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the SF lead to 13-11 at the end of the first quarter.

The game was tied at 13 and 15 in the second quarter. The Rams had a 21-15 lead before Methacton called a 30-second timeout at 3:33. The Warriors came out of the break with a Tori Bockrath steal and two Timko foul shots to make it 21-17 at the 3:01 mark.

However, the Rams answered with two Boyer 3-point shots from the corner to hike their lead back up to 10 points at 27-17. Sullivan and Olsen distributed passes to set up those shots.