Down by 10 points in the second quarter, and with two starters in foul trouble, the Rams not only managed to survive, but clawed back to take a two-point lead by halftime.

Then Spring-Ford won the battle of the boards and seemed to come up with every loose ball in the second half to turn a close game into a 66-52 win.

Tom Murphy led the Rams (8-1 PAC-10, 11-2 overall) with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Julius Lopez, whose nine-point scoring burst in the second quarter helped to boost the Rams into the lead, scored 16 and Ryan Kraft added 15. Chad Piersol topped OJR (6-2, 9-3) with 17, followed by 11 for Jon Michewicz.

"I was pleased," said Ram coach Dave Caldwell. "The kids showed me a lot of heart. We weathered the storm of being down early."

"They were just a little stronger team," noted OJR coach Ted Snyder. "They were just better. They got the loose balls and we gave up a lot of layups."

Kraft picked up two fouls in the first 1:40 of the contest, went to the bench for the rest of the quarter and nearly half of the second and Murphy drew his second foul with 1:50 left in the first.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, built a 16-8 margin after a quarter and led 20-10 two minutes into the second.

But Lopez sparked the comeback with two straight baskets, Kraft re-entered and fed Billy Mengel for a bucket and hit a jumper to cut the deficit to four.

Then Mengel scored on a fastbreak and an offensive rebound, Kraft tied the score at 24-24 with a score off an offensive board, and a drive and a three-pointer from the top of the circle by Lopez completed a 19-7 Ram run and gave the visitors a 29-27 edge at the break.

"Ted really had his team prepared, but we weathered the storm and that was huge for us," said Caldwell.

"We got a break when we got their two guys in foul trouble," said Snyder. "we took advantage of that, but missed a couple more opportunities. That Lopez kid's spurt started a nice run for them."

The Rams scored the first six points after intermission. Then when OJR battled back to within 43-40 early in the fourth quarter, Spring-Ford pulled away again as Carl Grzywacz sank a jumper, Drew Kurtz stole the ball and rifled a perfect pass to Kraft for a layup, Mengel made two from the line, and Lopez scored off a rebound. That made it 51-40 with with just over foul minutes to go and the Rams maintained at least an eight point bulge the rest of the way.

"I want to single out Drew Kurtz, who played tremendous defense on Chad Piersol," said caldwell. "I thought our rebounding was better tonight, (the Rams had a 36-22 margin) which it had to be because Owen J. is a good rebounding team.

"I was really proud of our guys. But Owen J. has a great team and there's a long way to go."

The Rams wound up with 13 offensive rebounds to four for the Wildcats, who had none in the second half.

"We gave up a lot of second shots and the boards were very big," said Snyder. "We had matchup problems. Some of our smaller guys were playing their bigger guys."

Spring-Ford settled down after turning the ball over eight times in the first quarter and finished with 15 turnovers to OJR's 14.

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