Spring-Ford grabs another PAC championship behind trademark defense

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By DAVE KURTZ

ROYERSFORD – Ram tough.

It’s the reputation the Spring-Ford girls basketball program has forged through grit, hard work and a defense-first attitude, leading to a dynastic stretch that has produced eight PAC championships in the 14 years the league has held a postseason tournament.

Following a 55-41 victory over Methacton Wednesday night, the latest Spring-Ford edition cutting down the nets was simply following a tried and true blueprint to the top.

Ram tough indeed.

“Our shots weren’t falling in the first half,” said Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel after his club capped a perfect 18-0 run through the league with their 17th straight victory. “So we went back to our defense. That is something we’ve always been able to rely on.”

The ever-dependable Spring-Ford defense once again rose to the occasion, forcing 25 Methacton turnovers to help fuel a 28-8 edge in fastbreak points.

The Rams, who got a game-high 14 points and four steals from Cassie Marte and a combined 24 points,11 rebounds and five assists from the dynamic sister tandem of Lucy and Olivia Olsen, enforced their will at the start of the second half.

And it all revolved around ferocious, baseline-to-baseline defensive pressure.

With Lucy Olsen, who had spent a large majority of the first half on the bench because of two early personal fouls, triggering a 12-0 run with 7 of her 13 points, Spring-Ford (21-2) expanded a narrow 23-21 halftime lead to double digits at 35-21.

The Warriors finally broke the scoring drought of 5 minutes, 45 seconds when Sydney Tornetta (17 points) cashed a 15-foot jumper, but the deficit would grow to 38-26 by the end of the third quarter and Methacton would not get back within single digits down the stretch.

“I would like to offer my congratulations to the best team in the league, and that’s what they’ve been all year,” said Methacton coach Craig Kaminski, whose club is still looking for its first PAC championship despite seven trips to the finals. “They outplayed us, and they were playing at another level at the start of the second half.

“As always when you’re playing Spring-Ford, you have to take care of the ball and we didn’t do that with 25 turnovers. We also allowed 15 offensive rebounds, and that was a problem.”

Olivia Olsen, a 5-foot-11 senior forward was a problem at both ends of the floor for the Warriors, filling the stat sheet with 11 points (5-9 FG), 6 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists and 2 blocks.

“We worked so hard to get this,” Olsen said. “PACs are always the first goal, then it’s districts and states. We don’t expect our season to end until late March.

“The big thing for us is that we’re strong on defense, and that helps us get points in transition. Our defense carried us the whole game.”

There were other heroes for the Rams, including 5-7 junior guard Sky Sullivan (9 points, 4-5 FG, 3 assists, 3 steals) and omnipresent, 5-9 sophomore guard Lucy Olsen (13 points, 5 rebounds).

Marte was there from the beginning, scoring 9 of her 14 points during the first half as Spring-Ford overcame 28 percent shooting (10-36) to lead  23-21 at the break.

“We couldn’t let this game slip away,” said Marte. “We had worked too hard for this. Our defense helps our offense get points, and that’s how it always works for us.”

The work has just begun for the Rams, who are the No. 4 seed in the District 1-6A playoffs, earning a first-round bye before hosting a second-round game this coming Wednesday against the North Penn-Haverford survivor. The winner of that second-round encounter will lock up a state playoff bid.

“Our goal each day is to get better,” said McDaniel. “This is a culmination of our hard work. I’m so proud of this senior group, and they still have bigger goals to fulfill.

“Our offense really got rolling in the second half and that all came off our defense. The girls take pride in their ability to play defense.”

(1) Spring-Ford 55, (3) Methacton 41

Methacton             15  6   5  15 - 41
Spring-Ford            15  8  15 17 - 55
Shooting Percentages
Methacton:       FG - 14-35 (40%). 3-pt FG - 5-15 (33%)  FT - 8-14 (57%)
Spring-Ford:     FG - 22-56 (39%). 3-pt FG - 3-16 (19%). FT - 8-10 *80%)