Defending champ Spring-Ford storms by UP
UPPER PROVIDENCE » It showed the value recent post-season experience can have for a recent goround.
Spring-Ford, for whom playoffs are an annual routine — in productivity as much as quantity — was back in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Final Six field off a PIAA Class 6A runner-up finish last year. It faced an Upper Perkiomen unit whose last post-season action came almost a decade ago (2012-13 season).
As might be expected, past experience won out. The Rams dispatched the Indians, 66-47, in the second of two quarterfinal-round games Thursday at Spring-Ford.
The fifth-seeded Rams (17-5) will continue their post-season run Saturday in a semifinal with top seed Methacton. Upper Perk, in the meantime, has a foundation for the reconstruction of its own playoff background continuing with the upcoming District 1 Class 5A tournament.
“It’s a transition for us,” UP head coach Matt Bowe said afterward. “We started out as a ‘make’ team, and now we’re working to become a winning program.”
Spring-Ford, its relative youthfulness — one senior, two juniors on its 15-player roster — notwithstanding, displayed a level of domination characteristic of past triumphs.
The Rams (17-5 overall) roared to a 27-5 lead in the first quarter, fueled by a stretch of 22 unanswered points over the final six minutes. It built that to a 42-10 halftime advantage, then used successive scoring trips at the start of the third to form a 36-point lead and subsequent employment of the “running clock” for the duration of the game.
Coupled with Spring-Ford going to its bench players soon after, the fourth seed Indians (15-8) had a 37-20 scoring edge the rest of the way.
“I’m proud of them,” Bowe said. “This is the most points we’ve had against a 6A team. Playing against Spring-Ford, it gives me hope.”
In comparison to the Tribe, whose scoring was done by three players, the Rams got offensive contributions from 11 of its players and more than 50 from its starters. Anna Azzara led the way with 20 points, Mac Pettinelli added 13 and Megan Robbins chipped in with another eight off second shots and jumpers from the lane.
“I’m proud of the kids, the way they utilized their experience,” SF head coach Mickey McDaniel said. “We try to play a tough nonconference
That said, a team listing seven sophomores and three freshman is not a finished product in McDaniel’s estimation.
“We have a lot of improvement ahead of us,” he said. “But our experience paid off.”
Azzara had a double-duty, marking UP’s super freshman Grace Galbavy. The PAC’s thirdleading scorer (18.5 ppg) did emerge as the game’s leading scorer with 27 points, but she got only six of them in the first half.
“That’s the nature of the game,” McDaniel noted. “We challenged them to hold her down. We did a nice job of it in the first half.”
It was a similar situation for Erin States, UP’s second-leading scorer. The sophomore forward/ center had all 16 of her markers in the second half.
Azzara was the Rams’ big gun during their 24-point opening outburst, one that extended into the opening minutes of the second quarter. She had 14 in the opening frame, hitting twice from 3-point range.
Spring-Ford’s next best run was the 11 it put together at the end of the first half and beginning of the second, capped by a Pettinelli jumper and Azzara layup that put
the “running clock” into action.
“That’s what we wanted them to do,” McDaniel said. “Run, and push the ball.”
For UP, the future has a solid foundation with Galbavy, four sophomores and one junior drawing from this year’s post-season experience.
“I want them to not lose hope for districts,” Bowe said. “I told the girls not to have a panic attack, seeing all their friends and family in the stands. If we make a run next year, we’ll take a lot from it.”
Spring-Ford, in the meantime, is looking to a third go-round with surging Methacton (20-2). The teams played to a three-point finish last week, and the Warriors — they are currently ranked third in District 1’s Class 6A field — have just one loss in the Liberty Division to the Rams’ three.
“We’ve had a lot of experience watching them play,” McDaniel recalled. “We want to play our best.”
NOTES » Spring-Ford currently stands 10th in Class 6A, three spots behind Perkiomen Valley. The Vikings advanced to the PAC semifinals with a 51-42 win over Owen J. Roberts in the night’s first quarterfinal.