ROYERSFORD >> The Spring-Ford girls basketball team persevered through everything thrown their way on Saturday afternoon.
With the team’s leading scorer stuck on the bench most of the way battling injury, the Spring-Ford offense ran into plenty of dry spells. Once the Rams did seem to find rhythm, they were quickly answered by youthful Oxford during the opening round of the District One Class 6A playoffs.
Maddie Haney came through in the biggest way late, knocking down a pair of clutch free throws to break the tie with under 10 seconds remaining en route to the Rams’ 38-35 win over Oxford.
“I needed to calm myself down,” recalled Haney of her trip to the line with the game tied 35-35. “I knew that those free throws could help us get the lead back and help us move on.”
Haney corralled the ball just shy of the half-court line, drove it the length of the court then drew contact in the paint to earn a trip to the line where she calmly cuffed both attempts.
With the win, Haney and the No. 16 seeded Rams set up a date with top-seeded North Penn on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. A win would ensure a trip to the PIAA playoffs, while a loss would send Spring-Ford (17-8 overall) to the district playback round. Ches-Mont American division winner Oxford’s season comes a close at 16-8 overall.
“We had some girls step up,” said Spring-Ford head coach Mickey McDaniel. “We’ve got 15 kids that are dressed for the postseason, and we expect every one of them to be ready. Maddie’s one of them. She really stepped up and did a great job at the line.”
Saturday certainly wasn’t the start to a playoff run the Rams had been searching for. With senior guard Sydney Wagner noticeably battling a hand injury throughout, the Rams’ offense was out of sync early on. Able to eventually overcome that slow start, though, Spring-Ford utilized an eight-point run during the early going of the fourth quarter to give themselves some needed cushion.
Senior Juliana Alessandroni got the run started with a 3-pointer from the right elbow to make it 28-26. On their next few possessions, senior Alyssa Conway converted consecutive buckets to extend the led before Alessandroni capped the run with a free-throw to make it 33-26 with three minutes to go.
“We all knew we had to step up with Syd out most of the game,” said Alessandroni afterward. “The good thing about our team is that we have a deep bench. In practice we all work together, so by now, we’re used to playing together.”
Conway led the way with a team high nine points while Alessandroni finished with eight, including a pair of 3-pointers. Junior guard Rachel Christman notched six points while Haney and Abby Goodrich each finished with five.
That late Rams’ run wasn’t long-lived.
After Conway checked out of the game with her fifth foul, the Hornets put together a run of their own. Miranda Porretta converted a basket, then Emily Shallow knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 33-31. After a couple clean trips to the line from Porretta and freshman Anna Hampshire, Oxford had it all even at 35-35 with 13 seconds left.
“We just ran out of time,” said Oxford head coach Brian Urig afterward. “We were able to battle all the way back and give ourselves a legitimate chance to win with just 13 seconds left. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull through.”
Porretta, a sophomore guard, paced Oxford with 16 points, shooting 10-for-12 from the free throw line. Senior forward Grace Hennessey notched seven points and single-handedly out-rebounded the entire Spring-Ford roster 21-15. It was turnovers that proved costly for the Hornets, handing it over to Spring-Ford 26 times, including eight during the first quarter.
“They did us in over the course of the whole game,” said Urig of turnovers. “We gave them (Spring-Ford) too many shots and too many second chances.”
Now as the Rams start to shift focus to the district second round, they eye up a North Penn team coming off its first loss in over a month — 43-35 against Central Bucks West in the Suburban One title game. Surely, Spring-Ford won’t be able to afford a slow start this time around.
“We’ve got to forget about this one. We got the W, that’s what matters,” said Alessandroni. “We’ve got to come out strong from the start at North Penn.”