WEST NORRITON - Spring-Ford’s total team effort put the Rams on the brink of the Rams’ second consecutive District 1-AAAA girls basketball championship.
The Rams earned the right to play in the district title game at Villanova University Friday night, March 1, with a 63-30 rout of West Chester Bayard Rustin Wednesday night at Norristown High School.
The top-seeded Rams (26-2) met second-seeded Mount St. Joseph Academy, a 48-36 winner over Upper Dublin in the first semifinal Wednesday, in the championship clash.
Spring-Ford entered the contest with an 18-game winning streak. The Rams defeated Mount St. Joseph, 39-32, earlier this season on Jan. 12.
The Rams have been averaging 61 points per game while allowing just 37 points since most of their games have been lopsided victories.
But head coach Jeff Rinehimer and the Rams realize every game is tougher now with each round in the playoffs. Besides the district title game, the Rams will be one of 10 ballclubs from District 1 to qualify for the PIAA State Tournament.
“Our goal is to come out every game and never take a team lightly,” said Spring-Ford 5-10 junior forward Shelby Mueller. “We talk in practice about going hard. Coach is always telling us to have a strong start. It is great to get ahead and then you never have to play catch-up.”
Against Rustin, Mueller scored a team-high 12 points to go along with four rebounds. Senior guard Brittany Moore scored all 11 of her points in the first half with three first-quarter treys, and Sarah Payonk also netted 11 points.
Moore also had three steals and three rebounds while leading the defensive charge out front against the Golden Knights (20-6). Payonk, a 5-11 senior forward, also grabbed nine rebounds and had three blocked shots, two assists and one steal on the night. Junior guard Sammy Stipa had eight points with one trey, six assists, three rebounds, two steals and one block.
Spring-Ford jumped out to a 24-7 advantage after one period and was up 38-9 by halftime and 55-18 after three quarters.
The Rams finished with nine steals and five blocked shots that helped create 21 Rustin turnovers on a typical effort by Spring-Ford. S-F also pressured Rustin into 11-for-44 shooting from the floor (25 percent) while the Rams shot 24-for-54 (44 percent) while utilizing 13 players on the court.
“We always compliment each other,” said Mueller. “We work as a team together. Our bench is so deep. That helps out. Our tempo stays the same.”
“We were all hyped up,” said Moore. “We want to finish up what we started last year and go all the way to states. We push each other and keep each other moving.
“I am proud of our defense. We stuck togeher and were moving on defense and that sets up our offense.”
Spring-Ford defeated Central Bucks West, 60-45, to reach the semifinals. Payonk had a big game in that fray with 16 points, one trey, eight boards, seven steals, five blocks and four assists. Stipa finished with 19 points, two triples, two assists, two rebounds and one steal. Mueller chipped in with 11 points, six boards, four blocks, three steals and one assist.
Mueller started the Rustin game averaging 11.2 points (290) per game while Payonk (289) and Stipa (289) each stood at 11.1. Payonk had 96 offensive rebounds and 116 defensive for 212 with an average of 9.6 boards. Mueller came in with 79 offensive boards, 87 defensive and a total of 166 for a clip of 7.6.
Senior forward Courtney Hinnant, who stands 5-10, averages 6.1 rebounds and 6.7 points off the bench. And Maggie Locke, a 6-0 sophomore, provides 5.1 rebounds and 5.4 points per outing.
Payonk came in on top in assists with 72, followed by senior guard Sammi Haas (56) and Stipa (55). Payonk led in bocks with 39 while Mueller swatted back 30. Stipa was high in steals with 88 while Payonk had 84, Mueller 54, Moore 39, Haas 34, Hinnant 27 and Locke 25.
Stipa led in deflections with 56 while Payonk came in at 46 and Mueller at 34.
Stipa had 114 field goals, Payonk 107 and Mueller 100. Mueller had the best shooting percentage from the floor at 48 with Haas and Hinnant each at 42 percent.
Moore led in treys with 29, followed by Stipa with 23, Has with 16 and Payonk with 15.
Spring-Ford’s two big girls, Payonk and Mueller, are both excellent at the free throw line. Mueller came ina t 88-for-10 (88 percent) while Payonk checked in at 60-for-84 (71 percent).