Spring-Ford returns to the mountaintop via balanced effort

By DAVE KURTZ

BOYERTOWN  - There was nothing particularly magical about Spring-Ford’s return to the mountaintop after a two-year absence.

It all came down to a solid blend of seniors and underclassmen playing with cohesion, rhythm and purpose in the Rams’ 54-45 victory over archrival Perkiomen Valley in the title showdown at Boyertown High Wednesday night.

Steady seniors Sarah Cooper (3-4 FG, 2 assists, team-high 5 rebounds) and Rachel Christman (4-6 FT in final 35 seconds) contributed 9 points each to supplement the stellar play of freshman point guard Lucy Olsen (13 points, 3-5 on treys, 5 assists) and junior Cassie Marte (10 points, 3 treys, 4 rebounds) to trigger the win.

“The leadership on this team from the entire senior class in incredible,” said Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel, whose program now has seven PAC crowns during the playoff era including three-year runs from 2005-08 and 2011-14. “This senior class – I get emotional – is really special. There is inclusiveness and even the eighth grade girls at our team camps feel part of the program.”

Cooper especially rose to the occasion, helping key a pivotal 18-2 run spanning the second and third quarters to turn a 19-14 deficit into a 32-20 lead.

“Sarah was such a spark in the second half,” said McDaniel after Cooper cashed 5 of her 9 points early in the third. “She did such a good job defending, blocking out and doing the kind of work that you often don’t notice.”

It was all in a day’s work for Cooper.

“We have so much confidence in each other,” Cooper said. “We don’t care about our individual stats, who gets the winning basket, it’s just that we’re together.”

Perk Valley (19-60 did not go quietly in this clash of PAC titans.

Trailing 41-29 at the 7:40 mark of the fourth quarter, the Vikings ripped off a 13-5 run to cut the gap to 44-42 when Taylor Hamm (14 points, 9 rebounds) scored with her off hand in the lane with 1:45 left.

It was still a one-possession game after Megan Jonassen (game-high 23 points, 9 rebounds) buried two free throws with 36.3 seconds remaining.

But that would be as close as Perk Valley would get, Christman and Emily Tiffan going a combined 6-for-8 from the stripe to seal the deal.

“We lost to one of the best teams in the state of Pennsylvania,” said PV coach John Strawoet. “So we’ve got to keep our heads up, be proud of the performance that we had and be ready to move on.”

Seeded No. 7 in the upcoming District 1-5A tournament, the Vikings get a first-round bye before hosting the winner of Neshaminy/Cheltenham Wednesday. Spring-Ford (22-2), meanwhile, also gets a first-round bye as the No. 3 district seed and will meet the CB West/Boyertown survivor Wednesday. One victory there would assure a state playoff appearance for the Rams and Vikings.

“I thought our ‘bigs’ played great,” said Strawoet. “But when they had that run and starting knocking down threes, it was tough digging out of that hole. I’m proud of my kids because they didn’t’ quit and kept going at it, at it, at. But Spring-Ford is such a disciplined team, we just didn’t get there.”

The Rams got there with a freshman point guard at the helm. Lucy Olsen, who received some extra motivation when older sister Olivia Olsen had to leave the floor after suffering an apparent head injury following a nasty collision late in the second quarter, is clearly the engine that drives this well-oiled machine.

But the slick, quick Olsen realizes that none of this could have been accomplished without the help of the entire Spring-Ford team.

“Our seniors, Sarah and Rachel, brought a lot of energy and worked their tails off,” said Olsen. “We play as a team – and it’s a different person stepping up every night.

“This is amazing – I don’t think it’s hit me yet that we won. But we definitely deserve this. We gave everything we had, all four quarters.”

(1) Spring-Ford 54, (3) Perkiomen Valley 45