Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley take care of business, set up expected title showdown

By DAVE KURTZ

BOYERTOWN – Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley have ruled the Pioneer Athletic Conference with an iron-clenched fist all season.

When the PAC Final 6 playoffs began this week, the Liberty Division combatants who split the season series 1-1 while winning all their other 12 division (9) and inter-divisional (3) clashes, were the clear-cut favorites to meet for all the hardware.

And that is exactly what will unfold Wednesday night (7 pm) at Boyertown when the heavy-handed Rams and Vikings – averaging double-digit margins of victory-  square off for all the hardware.

Saturday night it was all about taking care of business, the top-seeded Rams eliminating (5) Methacton 58-39 in the semifinal opener and the (3) Vikings following suit with a 64-54 triumph over Frontier Division-co champion (2) Pope John Paul II.

“Spring-Ford is a very good basketball team,”  Methacton coach Craig Kaminski said. “We gave them everything they could handle, but we had a bad second half. Let’s face it, that team probably has more weapons than we have.”

The guard-oriented Rams needed that weaponry to pull away from a narrow 25-21 halftime lead, riding a 12-1 run at the start of the third quarter to stretch the advantage to 37-22.

The Warriors (13-11) would get as close as 9 (46-37) with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter when Jillian Zerbe knocked down a triple from the right corner, but Spring-Ford closed things out with an 11-2 advantage down the stretch.

Freshman point guard Ludy Olsen triggered the charge with a game-high 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the floor, including 3 of 7 from the arc. Rachel Christman added 11 points and 2 assists while Cassie Marte filled the stat sheet with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists for Spring-Ford (21-2).

“I thought our defense picked up and our bench was getting enthusiastic,” said Olsen, who had 12 points in the pivotal third quarter including two treys and another bucket at the buzzer to furnish a 46-34 lead. “We just kept on fighting. We play together as a team, and know that if someone has an off night, someone else is going to pick it up.”

Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel expected nothing less than a dogfight from Methacton – and that’s exactly what he got. But the Warriors, who got 10 points each from Nicole Cooper and Olivia Pennypacker, was doomed by 15 turnovers and a 30-16 deficit on the glass.

“Craig (Kaminski) and his staff always do a good job getting their girls ready to play hard, so this was a good game to come out with a win,” said McDaniel. “We knew we had to stop their scorers, so we extended our man-to-man in the second half.

“We also knew that rebounding was key and we did a good job with that. This was a gut check. We adjusted our zone offense and moved the ball better. We ran well to start the game and stepped up our offensive execution in the second half.”

The Vikings (19-5)  followed a similar script in the nightcap, riding a strong second half to victory. Holding a tenuous 29-23 lead at the break, Perk Valley extended the advantage to 44-32 entering the fourth quarter behind Megan Jonassen – who went scoreless in the first half after picking up three personal fouls.

Unleashed, the 6-foot-1 Fordham commit exploded for 11 points in the frame en route to an 18-point, 15-rebound final stat line.

“When I get in foul trouble it’s harder on me mentally than physically,” said Jonassen. “I have to remember to play aggressive but smart.”

Not lost in Jonassen’s Jeckyl/Hyde performance was the play of 6-0 senior forward Megan Moore, who provided a significant bench press that produced 6 rebounds and13 points, including 9 in the second quarter  to help PV turn a 12-9 first-quarter deficit into the 29-23 halftime lead.

“We have been working hard to get to the PAC championship, and I was happy to help us get there,’ said Moore. “Our bigs are our strength, and I felt confident out there.”

PV coach John Strawoet also has plenty of faith in Moore.

“Megan did an excellent job,” said Strawoet. “Our bench has been doing an outstanding job – the other night it was Sara Nijssen.  But we weren’t playing team basketball in the first half.”

That all changed after the break for the Vikes, who compensated for a 17-8 disadvantage in turnovers by posting a staggering 44-21 rebounding edge. In addition to the foul-plagued Jonassen, Taylor Hamm also recorded a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds for PV.

For PJP, Kayla Mesaros posted a team-high 15 points, Elyse Sylvester netted 14 points with a pair of trifectas and Grace Cobaugh added 7 points and 6 rebounds. But the Golden Panthers (13-10) ultimately failed to get it done at the offensive end, shooting just 35 percent (18-52) from the floor.

The anticipated championship showdown features an interesting clash of strengths and styles. PV, which posted a 49-43 win over Spring-Ford on Jan. 25 after dropping a 61-50 decision on Dec. 21,  plays inside-out through its dominating interior players.

Spring-Ford, on the other hand, relies on suffocating defense, transition offense and significant depth.

“We are where we want to be,” Strawoet said. “Spring-Ford is very disciplined and they play well together. They have two losses and we know that one of those losses came at our hands. So we’ll just do what we do best.”

(1) Spring-Ford 58, (5) Methacton 39
Methacton       9 12 13   5 - 39
Spring-Ford   16  9 21 12 - 58
 
(3) Perkiomen Valley 64, (2) Pope John Paul II 54
Perkiomen Valley    9 20 17 18 - 64
Pope John Paul II  12 11  9  22 - 54