POTTSTOWN - Tom Murphy and Ryan Kraft, Spring-Ford's two senior leaders, stepped up big at crunch time Tuesday night against St. Pius X.
Big-time players usually do in big games, and, as Winged Lions coach Randy Reber refers to the two Rams, Murphy and Kraft are legitimate first team all-league players in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.
So with the conductors leading the band, the Rams held off the Winged Lions, 59-53, in the league championship game at Strom Gymnasium.
Murphy played a dominating game with 26 points on 12-for-14 shooting from the floor, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Kraft had an off shooting night (5-for-17) and did not score while shooting 0-for-6 from the field in the first half. But he bounced back in the second half to finish with 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
"They are two first team all-league players," Reber said. "You can't stop both of them the entire game."
The two tough forwards played physical games at both ends of the floor, and they had to do so in order to win against an inspired Pius X ballclub with its own physical players in an outstanding game before a packed house.
Murphy actually played with a hyperextended thumb suffered in the semifinal victory against Perkiomen Valley. Kraft took an inadvertent elbow and suffered a bloody nose while going for a rebound with 2:39 left in the game and Pius X leading 46-45.
Earlier in the season, Murphy was sidelined with a sprained ankle. He is making up for lost time and is still chasing 1,000 career points that Kraft hit a few games ago.
"I had to go to the boards hard," Murphy said. "They (Lions) always crash hard and we had to match that intensity."
Murphy said there is a friendly rivalry between S-F and Pius X that extends back to their youth days in CYO basketball.
"I've known them for a long time," Murphy said. "It is always fun to play them. It is always close. It is always a battle with those guys."
Chris Flick (16 points, 14 rebounds), Joe Pritiskutch (12 points) and Dave Bilinski (10) powered the Lions. Mike Curry (eight points) was assigned to Murphy and sophomore Matt King defended against Kraft.
"Matt King played very hard," Reber said. "He did a good defensive job. But it was a boy guarding a man. Ryan Kraft is one physical player and mature senior."
Kraft talked about his difficult night.
"I didn't really play well in the first half," Kraft said. "They were covering me a lot and shading me. Murphy stepped up and then I came back in the second half. I just tried to penetrate and kick it out.
"I had some open shots. Some times they fall and some times they don't. The team won and that's the thing that matters."
Spring-Ford coach Dave Caldwell and Reber thought it was a vastly entertaining, exciting game by both sides.
"It was two heavyweight groups going at it," Caldwell said. "I am really proud of my kids and proud of the Pius kids. It was just a great night and I am happy our guys came out on top."