Shelby Mueller and Sammy Stipa claim Spring-Ford still has a lot to work on, to improve on.
Not exactly a scary thought, but sure close.
It may be hard to imagine the Rams playing their customary aggressive, all-over-the-court defense much better than they did in Wednesday night’s second round of the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs. Creating 30 turnovers, after all, can be downright frightening, for the opposition that is.
But it was that defense that helped overshadow a less-than-daunting effort at the other end of the court and guided the Rams to a convincing 52-31 victory over visiting Downingtown West.
The win — the No. 1 seeded Rams’ 16th in a row, which pushed their overall mark to 24-2 — earned them a quarterfinal match-up with Central Bucks West back at home Friday night.
There actually wasn’t anything wrong with the Spring-Ford offense at the outset. Dropping 6 of 8 shots in and around six turnovers led to a 13-0 lead at the 3:43 mark of the first quarter. And even though the teams split the scoring the remainder of the period, the hosts still had a commanding 19-6 lead.
Then the nightmarish shooting set in. It was almost as if someone put a lid on the bucket – which would otherwise easily explain the 1-for-19 from the field in the second quarter. Brittany Moore converted another turnover into an easy layup a minute in, but that was it except for Sarah Payonk and Maggie Locke hitting one free throw each.
And the Whippets (17-9) were still in it at the break, 23-12.
“It wasn’t pretty,” admitted Mueller, who had a game-high 15 points despite foul trouble limiting her time in both the second and third quarters.
“We’re work through it together,” said Stipa, who added another 13. “We just have to improve on some things.”
Like finding their shot.
“This was a playoff game, and sometimes you just don’t shoot well,” said Spring-Ford head coach Jeff Rinehimer. “I thought our defense was good, though. We were a little sloppy there with some bad fouls. But we’ll get back at it and get ready (for Friday night).”
According to Downingtown West head coach Dave Johnson, the Rams don’t have a lot to work on.
“They thrive on pressure,” Johnson said of the Rams. “They capitalize on your mistakes and get a lot of easy points. (Spring-Ford) did cool off with their shooting there (in the second quarter), and we were only down by 12 (at halftime) against a good team like that. But we just couldn’t buy a bucket, either.
“It was a tough game. Spring-Ford’s the No. 1 team in the state, too, so we’ll take the positives out of this. We’re still alive (in the consolation bracket), so hopefully we can take what we saw here and use it Saturday.”
Spring-Ford’s defense continued to create havoc for the Whippets’ two leading scorers. Kayla Feairheller was held to eight points, nine below her average; and Maddie Drew, the lone Whippet in double figures with 10, came up four shy of her norm.
The offense was back to keeping pace with the defense in the second half, too. Balanced scoring from Mueller, Stipa, Courtney Hinnant, Locke and Sarah Payonk pushed the Rams’ led to 37-17 by the end of the third quarter. The spread would get to 23 when Sammi Haas swished her first three-point bomb to make it 45-22 with 4:42 remaining, then her second from beyond the arc made it 50-23 to put it out of the Whippets’ reach with 3:20 left.
“In the first half we were making a lot of dumb fouls,” Mueller said. “That, plus our shots weren’t falling.
“It just seemed like (Downingtown West) was forcing us into a half-court game. When teams do that it slows down our tempo, slows down our momentum.”
“We’ll learn from this,” Stipa said. “We just have to come out and play even better defense and stop making the dumb fouls.”