After those first eight minutes the Winged Lions had already scored 20 points against visiting Spring-Ford and led by 11.

And it turned out that that slow start was too much for Spring-Ford to overcome as St. Pius fought off the Rams' challenges in the fourth quarter for a 52-38 Pioneer Athletic Conference win.

Ryan Mooney led the scoring for the Lions (14-3 PAC-10, 17-4 overall) with 13, Rayne Reber and Brianne Slizofski each scored 11, and Kim Brady had eight points and 12 rebounds. Rachael Myers led the Rams (10-7, 11-9) - who were eliminated from league playoff contention with the setback - with 11. Nine of those came in the last quarter.

"I think it was the defense," Pius coach Joe Masleh said in explaining his team's fast start. "We played pressure the first quarter and then stopped moving our feet."

The Winged Lions - already in the Final Four and in a three-way tie for first coming in - led all the way, except for a 2-2 tie. Reber hit a three-pointer to break that deadlock and start the hosts on a seven-point run. A basket for Slizofski off a pass from Reber and a fastbreak score by Brady made it 9-2 before Leanne Boyle scored the first basket for the Rams on a baseline jumper nearly halfway through the period.

St. Pius went on to shoot 60 percent in the quarter (9-for-15) and Brady pulled in four rebounds.

"At the beginning we weren't rotating and communicating," noted Ram coach Jeff Rineheimer. "In the beginning they were getting every good shot. They scored 20 points and they were all on layups. It was the communication in the beginning."

Brady scored off a rebound to open the second quarter scoring and the Lions built their largest lead of the contest at 26-11 before the Ram defense started to deny them easy shots.

Spring-Ford closed to within 26-16 at the half, but couldn't get any closer until the midway point of the fourth quarter when Myers scored five straight on a three-pointer from the left wing and two free throws.

That Ram run cut the margin to 41-34 with 3:01 to go. Then the Lions missed four free throws in a row and Jill Boyer converted a Ram three-point play off a rebound to close the gap to 43-37 with 1:39 left.

But Slizofski beat the Ram press and scored and was fouled for a three-point play and Mooney stole the ball and laid in a basket for a 48-37 lead with just 1:16 remaining.

"They came in here knocked out of the Final Four and played like they were in the Final Four," Masleh said of the Rams. "They adapted to the press ... and our unwillingness to run an offense."

"We tried to make it tough on them, and we did," said Rineheimer. "I thought we made them work for their shots."

But while Spring-Ford made things more difficult for the Lions' offense after the first quarter, the Rams suffered from cold shooting throughout, missed numerous layups, and wound up at just 26 percent (13-for-50) from the field.

"I thought the game could have come down to the last few minutes," Rineheimer said. "It could have been closer if we could have made some shots."

Each team has one regular season game remaining. The Rams will have to wait to see if their record is good enough to make the District 1 Tournament.

Meanwhile, the Winged Lions will try to get their came together for the PAC-10 Final Four.

"We're trying to find ourselves," said coach Masleh. "We're not playing with composure. We are better than we are playing."

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