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WEST NORRITON - That suffocating Spring-Ford defense struck again Friday night in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA girls basketball playoffs.
The Rams forced Hershey into 25 turnovers to trigger a 59-41 victory at Norristown High School.
Spring-Ford (28-2), which had four players score in double figures, advanced to the second round Tuesday night at a site and time to be determined. The Rams will take on District 2 winner Wallenpaupack, a 43-40 winner over District 11 winner Parkland.
The two-time District 1 champion Rams, who struggled with their shooting from the floor in the beginning of the game, still took an 18-6 lead after one quarter and were ahead 28-14 at halftime against the Trojans, the seventh seed from District 3.
Sammy Stipa (16 points, one trey), Shelby Mueller (14), Brittany Moore (11, two treys) and Courtney Hinnant (10) paved the way for the Spring-Ford triumph.
Sarah Payonk keyed the rebounding work with nine boards (four offensive) to go along with four points and two assists.
Senior guard Victoria Blackburn (13 points, two triples) and senior forward Libby Nolan (11 points, nine rebounds) keyed the effort by the Trojans (22-5).
“We definitely stuck together as a team,” said Stipa, a junior point guard. “It was definitely our defense. Even though we were missing our shots in the beginning, our defense still kept us in the game. We definitely stay together as a team. Our defense is still there, and we were communicating very well. Our defense is always on or at least most of the time.”
Moore hit eight points in the openings tanza with one trey and three free throws in the mix. Stipa sank five points in the first period with one.
The Rams shot 5-for-18 from the field in the first quarter but still led by 12 points by forcing nine turnovers and outrebounding the Trojans 9-3 in the initial eight minutes of action.
Hinnant scored six of Spring-Ford’s 10 second-quarter points with some active work inside, and Mueller had the other two field goals for four points.
The Rams shot 9-for-32 (28 percent) from the field in the first half but committed just four turnovers as opposed to 15 by Hershey. The Rams ended the night at 21-for-55 in field goals (38.2 percent).
Hinnant and Moore each had eight points at the break.
“Everyone on the team, the starters and the bench, can go in and help in any way we can,” said Hinnant. “We have a positive attitude. I come off the bench and do whatever I can, even the smallest thing like communicating and getting everything started.
“Our defense wins the games for us. As long as we are helping each other out on defense, we win games. We are always there. We just play really good team defense.”
Moore made two steals in the first quarter while Sammi Haas and Payonk each had one. The Rams limited the Trojans to just four shots from the field in the first period and five attempts in the second quarter.
Maggie Locke made two third-period field goals four four points, and sophomore guard Julia Roshelli gave coach Jeff Rinehimer some solid minutes off the bench as well.
Spring-Ford held a 9-6 lead in the early going before ending the first period with a 9-0 run in the last 1:53.
Hinnant canned a layup with a pass from Payonk to begin the flurry and Stipa converted a steal into a layup at the other end of the floor. Moore dropped home a layup off a turnover and then deposited three foul shots with three seconds showing after being fouled beyond the arc.
The run reached 13-0 that allowed the Rams to take a 22-6 cushion with 4:59 left in the second period following a Mueller layup off a dish by Stipa.
“It really starts out at the defensive end,” said Rinehimer. “We were struggling with our shooting with some dry spells.
“We normally don’t shoot a high percentage, but we get turnovers and rebounds. We get to the foul line. Our foul shooting is up so we make up for it. Give me the defense. I can take that.”
Haas had four rebounds and three steals while Hinnant had four boards. ... Mueller had three steals, and Stipa distributed four assists to go along with her steal.