Pac-10 Final Four girls hoops semifinal: Spring-Ford blows away Pope John Paul II

By DAVE KURTZ

Pac-10sports.com

GRATERFORD – Pope John Paul II had two chances to beat Spring-Ford in Saturday’s PAC-10 Final Four girls semifinal – and slim left town early in the second half.

The Rams came out of the locker room at the midway point, rattled off 20 unanswered points and never looked back en route to an easy 61-22 romp at Perkiomen Valley High.  

The running clock was instituted with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but the runaway victory had been sealed long before that. Spring-Ford punched its ticket to another showdown with archrival Boyertown – a 59-31 winner over Phoenixville in the nightcap – Wednesday night at PV.

For more pictures on this game, visit the photo gallery on our web site.

“We never wanted to underestimate them, it’s a new season, so you never know what can happen,” said Mariah Traywick, who had 9 points and 13 rebounds, including 8 off the offensive glass. “We did a good job keeping our hands up on defense and boxing out.”

Fundamentals.

Unleashing their trademark full-court press and exploiting the Golden Panthers on the interior, the Rams forced 25 turnovers, held PJP to 20 percent (8-40) shooting and ruled the backboards, 37-18.

“Our offense was a little too quick (in the first half), but then we started getting the defense involved,” said Spring-Ford coach Jeff Rinehimer. “Our height advantage helped.”

One of those inside pillars, 5-foot-10 sophomore Sarah Payonk, nailed all seven of her free throws to finish with a game-high 13 points for the Rams, who had 10 players get into the scoring column. Payonk combined with Traywick and Meagan Yates (7 points, 3 assists) to score 19 first-half points as Spring-Ford took a 31-12 lead at the break.

Concerned with the Rams’ size on the interior, PJP had the game within reach at 12-5 after the first quarter behind an active zone defense. But things started to unravel after that for the Panthers, the top seed from the Frontier Division.

“A 12-5 first quarter should have been a motivator for us,” said PJP coach Dave Baker. “The game plan was good, we just didn't execute enough. The pressure they have is constant and you can't make mistakes because they're not going to make mistakes. We tried to emphasize patience with the press, but we reverted too often.”

The Rams hadn’t played in a week, so reverting to their usual form took some time. They looked a little rusty in the early going, but by the time the second half rolled around, things were starting to click.

“Our defense led our offense,” said Payonk. “We worked really hard and took advantage of this opportunity. In the playoffs you never know what can happen. Any game could be your last, so you have to make sure you’re always prepared.”

The preparation will ramp up early next week with the defending champions on the agenda. The teams split the season series to share the Liberty Division crown at 12-1.

Boyertown’s stirring comeback from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter on Jan. 26, which provided a 68-62 overtime win, won’t soon be forgotten by followers of both programs. But Spring-Ford insists that it has put that meltdown in the rear view mirror.

“It was only one game,” Rinehimer said. “I learned a long time ago not to get too upset over one game.”

But this time, this game, will have exceedingly higher stakes – a PAC-10 championship.

Pope John Paul II (22) – Bowes 0 0-2 0, Raugh 2 0-0 5, Bearden 0 0-2 0, Holleran 1 0-0 3, O’Brien 1 0-0 2, Chernaskey 1 0-0 2, Casey 0 0-1 0, Klokis 0 1-2 1, Mesaros 3 2-2 9,. Totals 8 3-9 22.

Spring-Ford (61) – Moore 1 0-0 2, Stipa 4 1-2 9, Yates 2 1-2 7, Traywick 3 3-5 9, Payonk 3 7-7 13, Hinnant 2 0-0 4, Lynch 3 1-2 7, Haas 1 0-0 2, Mueller 2 0-0 4, Haley Puckett 2 0-0 4. Totals 23 13-20 61.

Pope John Paul II          5 7 1 9 – 22

Spring-Ford                  12 19 22 8 – 61

3-point goals: Yates 2, Raugh, Holleran, Mesaros.