POTTSTOWN - Both coaches felt it was a local high school boys basketball game for the ages.

Nobody could really argue either.

Spring-Ford and St. Pius X battled tooth-and-nail Tuesday night for the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship at Strom Gymnasium.

In the end, the Rams surfaced with a 59-53 victory by making a few more big plays than the Winged Lions down the stretch.

The spectators had to be satisfied, too, with the entertaining contest. An exuberant full house gave the championship game the proper atmosphere it deserved.

"It was an unbelievable high school basketball game," said Spring-Ford coach Dave Caldwell after the Rams claimed their third title in the last six years plus a fourth trip to the league finals. "It was two heavyweight groups going at it.

"I am really proud of my kids and proud of the Pius kids for the way they battled. It was just a great night, and I am happy our guys came out on top. Everybody contributed on every possession. It was just incredible. The energy, intensity level, it was one of the most intense games I was ever involved in."

St. Pius X coach Randy Reber was in total agreement with Caldwell, and both are hard-core veterans of the hardwood wars.

"Overall, it was a heckuva high school game by two teams that I think came in with the utmost respect for each other," Reber said. "They knew what would happen for 32 minutes. They laid it on the line, and in the end they (Rams) made a few plays and we didn't. I can't fault our guys. They played their hearts out."

Both teams are known for blanket defenses as well as productive offenses, and they displayed as much in the finale.

The stars stepped forward as well as the role players and the reserves who played important minutes off the bench. Tom Murphy's 26 points and 12 rebounds powered the Rams, who got 10 points from leading scorer Ryan Kraft. Drew Kurtz chipped in six points, three boards, two assists and two steals from one guard spot. From the other backcourt position, junior Julius Lopez provided eight points with two key 3-point baskets, five boards, four assists and one steal. Junior Billy Mengel played a vital role off the bench with six points and seven caroms.

The Rams outrebounded the Lions 34-24, including 15-4 at the offensive glass.

For Pius X, Chris Flick (16 points, 14 rebounds), Joe Pritiskutch (12 points, two triples) and Dave Bilinski (10 points) were the offensive leaders in the nip-and-tuck fray. Mike Curry added eight points, and Chad DiFebbo came through with seven points, four assists, three steals, three boards and a blocked shot. Sophomore Matt King suffered through a tough shooting night (0-for-6) and did not score, but Reber praised the defensive work he did guarding Kraft, who will be playing for Shippensburg University next winter.

"They (Lions) play awesome defense," Kraft said. "Pius always plays great defense. We have to be on our best defensively to win close games like this."

Both ballclubs will be heard from some more this year The Rams are the third seed in the 32-team District 1 Class AAAA playoffs that get under way this weekend. The Winged Lions are the defending district champions in Class AA, which only has five teams, so Pius will have a considerable layoff period until they return to playoff action.

Reber paid his teams the ultimate compliment.

"I could not be more proud of my team, even if we won the game," he said.

* * *

New Champs lead the Seniors Winter Spring Bowling League at Phoenix Lanes with a 12-4 record, two games ahead of the Gladiators at 10-6.

Sam Gutchen (246, 674, 695), Dick Bird (262), Sandy Lawrence (192), Hazel Poteete (192, 549), Marian Presgrave (255) and June Meadows (680) had top scores for the week.

In the unusual department, Flossie Schlosman of the Strikers rolled a low game of 11 and series of 117.

Barry Sankey covers a variety of sports as a staff writer for The Phoenix. He can be reached at bsankey@phoenixvillenews.com.

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