The Phoenix

Spring-Ford outlasts Souderton for 6th straight district semifinal trip

- By Evan Wheaton ewheaton@medianewsg­ @EvanWheato­n on Twitter

Katie Tiffan had the chance to put it away. Up 3837 with 37.1 seconds on the clock, the No. 5 Spring-Ford guard went 1-for-2 at the line.

Tiffan’s shooting at the stripe was shaky, going 3-of-6 at the stripe in the fourth quarter. But after being sent back on the ensuing possession, she iced No. 4 Souderton with 8.5 seconds to go, finishing with a game-high 18 points.

The Rams fended off the Indians, 41-37 to punch their ticket to a sixth consecutiv­e District 1 Class 6A semifinal appearance. Spring-Ford will face top-seeded Perkiomen Valley Wednesday at 7 p.m. for a trip to the District 1 final.

“We were definitely under pressure. We just needed to step up and face the competitio­n,” Tiffan said. “I think them fouling me, it really put us up. Even though I missed a couple foul shots, we still got the lead.”

Before Spring-Ford (23-4) held out for the finish, the Rams saw their once-swollen lead dwindling down the stretch after a 12-0 run for them bled between the third and fourth quarters.

Having led 35-26 — that 12-point margin being the highest for either squad on the day — after junior point guard Anna Azzara scored on an offensive board from Mac Pettinelli to kickstart the fourth quarter, the last eight minutes were a race to the end.

Northweste­rn commit Casey Harter (15 points) and Erin Bohmueller (10 points) fueled a six-point swing for the Indians (23-5), who cut the game to one point, 38-37 with just over a minute left in the game.

“They definitely always have a hand in your face so its harder to make your shots, harder to get to the rim,” Azzara said. “But they’re a good team, I think we just executed well.”

After trailing by just two points (11-9) through the first quarter, Souderton attacked the perimeter between deep shots from Brooke Fenchel and Bohmueller while working the inside to pad its lead, 19-16 by halftime.

Spring-Ford’s offense was disrupted for four scoreless minutes in the second frame before the Indians tied it, 11-11 with a pull-up from Harter. Fenchel hit a deep shot to pull ahead by three on the next possession and Harter went coast-to-coast for a layup in transition just before the buzzer to pull ahead by three entering the break.

Then the beast woke up, the Rams rallying for their 12-point burst.

“Katie Tiffan played great. When you have to focus so much attention on Pettinelli and Azzara, and obviously (Meg) Robbins (9 points), that’s really what good teams do,” Souderton coach Lynn Carroll said. “They have somebody else who can step up for them and Katie Tiffan clearly did that today.”

Tiffan tied the game, 23-23 at the 4:27 mark in the third quarter before sinking a corner three with two and a half minutes left in the frame to go up 27-26. She scored eight points in the period while Azzara — the second-leading scorer in the Pioneer Athletic Conference at 15.9 points per game — finished with 12 points on the day.

“I think we all just really wanted it. We had to give it our all to win so we all played as a team,” Azzara said. “Katie really stepped up defensive and offensive-wise, so credit to her and credit to the team. They all pushed through and got it.”

Souderton was able to use its size to bully Spring-Ford at times, all players rostered being no shorter than 5-foot-9. In a game chock-full of momentum swings, the Indians found theirs from both the paint and around the perimeter, their shooters combining for five from deep.

While Souderton was outscored 17-7 in that pivotal third quarter, the Suburban One League Colonial champion was able to pour on 11 in a comeback bid before Tiffan’s late-game work.

“We just battled one possession at a time in that stretch. Erin gave us some huge moments offensivel­y. To claw back after being down whatever it was, I think that says a lot about our team and our girls, their mental toughness and their resilience,” Carroll said. “The turnovers in the third quarter hurt us a lot, but the fact we were able to recover from that and put ourselves in a position to win the game, was great.”

Spring-Ford will face Perkiomen Valley for the fourth time this season. The Rams are 1-2 against the Vikings this winter, including a 51-26 loss in the PAC championsh­ip. The Rams are the only team to have beaten Perkiomen Valley (25-1) through 202223 thus far.

With a state berth already in hand — and many returners from the 2021 District 1 champion squad — the Rams will have another crack at the team currently sitting atop of the mountain in District 1.

“It’s pretty big. We’re gonna come in more prepared than we ever have,” Tiffan said. “I think we can do better than before and our game is just overall getting better each day.”

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