ROYERSFORD - Whether it was on offense or defense, Spring-Ford’s Sarah Payonk seemed to play a critical role for the girls basketball team for the past four years.
This past winter, the 5-11 forward helped guide the Rams to the PIAA Class AAAA state championship and a 32-2 overall record.
Payonk, a third team All-State selection, averaged 10.2 points per game during the marvelous 2012-13 season and ended her career with 974 markers. Payonk also figured prominently in rebounding with a team-high 265 caroms last year. She finished second in steals with 95 and also topped the club in blocked shots with 52.
Now the outstanding student-athlete has found a nice home to continue her academic and athletic careers at the University of Scranton.
Payonk, who chose Scranton over King’s and Bloomsburg, plans to study nursing at the Division III college. She is the daughter of John and Ann Payonk. Payonk received a substantial amount of financial aid because of her high academic prowess as well as her basketball ability.
“She was an All-State player,” said retiring Spring-Ford head coach Jeff Rinehimer, who saw a 19-year tenure at the helm climax with the state championship. “It was her versatility offensively and defensively. She was covering anybody on the floor and playing her position. Sarah was a weapon out there offensively and defensively and with her leadership.
“And with her academics, she took a load off the coach’s mind. There was no worry up the court and what they were doing in the locker room. It was just a great experience for me. She deserves everything she gets.”
Payonk expects to play a forward position at the college level for the Royals, a traditionally strong team that finished 19-9 overall (10-4 conference) last year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA playoffs. The Royals captured the national championship back in 1985. Scranton competes in the Landmark Conference against the likes of Moravian, Juniata, Susquehanna, Catholic, Drew, Goucher (Baltimore) and the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Elizabethtown will be joining the conference as of July 1, 2014.
Head coach Mike Strong will be entering his 34th season of directing the Royals hoops program. He has amassed 789 career victories with a winning percentage of above .800.
Payonk was recruited on her performances at AAU tournaments as well as her scholastic games.
“I really like the campus and a lot of aspects of the team and coach,” said Payonk. “It is a good fit for me in academics and as an athlete.”
“I have to work on my shot and my post moves and improve on things that I struggled with,” said Payonk, “finishing layups dribbling the ball and all aspects.”
Scranton has one big girl returning who previously played at American University and will be a junior. The Royals are also bringing in a recruit from Wallenpaupack, which was one of Spring-Ford’s foes during its postseason playoff run to the state diadem.
“We’ll have some size,” said Payonk.