VILLANOVA - All the heavy scheduling and all of the hard work were finally justly rewarded Friday night.
Spring-Ford’s girls basketball team lived up to its high expectations with a 51-30 victory over Mount St. Joseph Academy in the District 1-AAAA championship game at Villanova University.
The top-seeded Rams broke open an 18-15 contest with an incredible 27-0 run on the Magic to assume complete control of the game with a 45-15 lead at the outset of the fourth quarter.
Junior guard Sammy Stipa scored 15 points to pace the balanced Rams (27-2), and Spring-Ford once again used tenacious defense to stymie the Magic (26-3). Mount St. Joseph, the second seed which was coming off a tough semifinal victory against Upper Dublin, went scoreless for 13:36 and went without a field goal for 14:33. Spring-Ford cruised past West Chester Bayard Rustin its semifinal fray.
The Magic had fallen to Spring-Ford in a much tighter battle, 39-32, in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic at Philadelphia University back on Jan. 12.
The Rams took care of business in stride since they have higher hopes to achieve more in the state tournament that begins next Friday evening, March 8. The two-time Pioneer Athletic Conference champions reached the state semifinals a year ago and would like to climb all the way to the top of the ladder to cap the 2012-13 campaign.
“We definitely knew what was expected and weren’t as nervous,” said Stipa of the repeat. “We concentrated on playing basketball the way we can. “It was our defense with full-court pressure, in your face and helping out. We were focusing on defense, and that definitely helps us in the game. We felt if our defense was good, our offense will come. Everything fell in place.”
The Rams held a 32-15 halftime lead and increased the margin by virtue of an 11-0 burst during the third quarter.
“We just had fire inside of us,” said junior forward Shelby Mueller. “We wanted to win back-to-back championships and go far in states. In the beginning we were a little nervous, but the coaches told us to relax and play basketball.
“We cut off penetration. We all rotated and got the boards. We did not let them get second shots.”
Stipa hit one trey, grabbed four rebounds, handed out four asists and made three steals. Mueller finished with nine points with one trey, five boards and three steals. Senior guard Brittany Moore drilled a pair of treys and scored eight points with five boards, three steals and two assists. Senior forward Sarah Payonk scored seven points (5-for-7 free throw shooting) and matched that figure with seven rebounds to go along with two blocked shots, two steals and one assist.
Senior guard Sammi Haas had a big game defensively as the Rams rotated people on Magic star junior guard Alex Louin, who ended the night with six points. Haas totaled five points, seven rebounds, two steals and two assists. Senior forward Courtney Hinnant chipped in with five points (3-for-6 foul shooting) and also had a steal and a rebound off the bench. Moore and Mueller were also matched up on Louin, a versatile 5-11 guard, at different stages of the game.
“The people off the bench contribute,” said Mueller. “Our depth helps so much. The girls off the bench still come in and contribute. We still do everything with their energy.”
Spring-Ford shot 18-for-47 from the field and 11-for-19 at the foul line. The Rams outrebounded the Magic, 30-23. The Rams also forced the Mount into 17 turnovers with 14 steals. S-F had 12 turnovers.
The Magic shot 11-for-46 from the floor and 7-for-12 at the foul line.
“I thought we played well in the first quarter,” said Spring-Ford coach Jeff Rinehimer. “That set the tone. Maybe we were a little jittery, but I liked the way we settled down.
“I thought if we worked hard, we had a chance (to repeat). The tough schedule helped us prepare, and our league was tough. We had to play Boyertown and Methacton twice and Perkiomen Valley. They got to see a lot of different players and strong kids and how you have to play.”
Rinehimer is assisted by Mickey McDaniel, Geoff Kahler, Jeff Mast and Stacey Huntington.