Boys basketball final: Spring-Ford and Pope John Paul II look to continue hot streaks

PAC-10 Final Four Boys Basketball Championships

Final

Tuesday, Feb. 15

At Perkiomen Valley High School

7 p.m.

Pope John Paul II  (Frontier Division #1) vs. Spring-Ford (Liberty Division #1)

*Records:  Pope John Paul II (9-4 league, 15-6), Spring-Ford (11-2 league, 16-7)

Trends: Both teams are peaking at the right time, Pope John Paul II has 8 wins in its last 9 starts while Spring-Ford has won 7 of its last 8

Previous meeting: Pope John Paul II responded to an electric atmosphere to hand Spring-Ford just its second league loss, 55-46, on Feb. 7

How they got here: Spring-Ford held on for a 52-50 triumph over Pottstown in Friday night’s semifinal, overcoming a 24-16 halftime deficit. The Rams began the third quarter with 11 unanswered points and never trailed again. Steve Joyce scored Spring-Ford’s last 10 points to keep the Trojans at arm’s length.

Pope John Paul II put on a defensive clinic in dispatching of Methacton, 56-41, in Friday’s nightcap. The Golden Panthers held the Warriors to 33 percent (18-54) shooting from the floor and took solid care of the basketball, getting a slew of easy opportunities in transition after handling the Methacton press. PJP used a 33-22 advantage in the second half to run away from a narrow 23-19 halftime edge.

Projected starting lineups

Spring-Ford – Ryan O’Hara (5-9 junior guard), Josh Dishman (6-1 junior guard, 9 ppg), Steve Joyce (6-1 senior forward, 13 ppg), Darryl Branch (6-3 junior forward), Zameer McDowell (6-5 sophomore center, 10 ppg)

Pope John Paul II – Dave Cotellese (5-10 junior guard, 8 ppg), Jeff Evans (6-0 senior guard, 12 ppg), Jake Gribb (6-3 junior forward), Billy Malescio (5-11 senior guard, 5 apg), Paul Mills (6-1 senior forward, 13 ppg, 8 rpg)

Coachspeak

Mike Young (Spring-Ford): “Pope John Paul II is very fundamentally sound. They can all handle the ball and they have good scoring balance. We need to defend against the ‘three,’ they had 10 of those against us the last time we played.

“I thought we were a little tentative against Pottstown, especially on offense. In the second half, we got it turned around, showed a little more initiative. Our motto is to make something happen instead of wait for something to happen. I know our defense will be there every night. The Pottstown game wasn’t one of our better defensive games. We’ll need to do better to beat Pope John Paul II.”

Jack Flanagan (Pope John Paul II): “Spring-Ford is the No. 1 team in our league. They run at you with 7, 8, 9 guys and they present matchup problems for us with their size.

“What’s it gonna take for us to beat Spring-Ford? We need to keep doing the little things, playing hard, playing smart, playing together. I'm looking for us get some scrapes on our knees, going after loose balls. We need to guard the ball, guard the lane and stop their penetration. We need to play great defense. That, more than anything else, will be the key.”

- DAVE KURTZ