BOYERTOWN >> Championship celebrations are normally a culmination.
When the Spring-Ford girls basketball team defeated Perkiomen Valley, 54-45, in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship Wednesday night at Boyertown, it felt different.
Part culmination, part commencement.
With three starters – freshman Lucy Olsen and juniors Abby Goodrich and Cassie Marte – and most top reserves who aren’t seniors, including leading scorer Olsen, who had a team-high 13 points in the final, the Rams feel like a team that is only getting started.
But when the championship was on the line, the players who know this is their last chance delivered most.
Senior guard Rachel Christman and senior forward Sarah Cooper didn’t have stat lines that explode off the page – the Rams’ senior starters scored nine points each, Cooper with five rebounds, Christman 5-for-8 from the free-throw line – but the second-half big moments were senior moments.
“We have so much confidence in each other,” Cooper said. “We don’t care about our individual stats, who gets the winning basket, it’s just that we’re together.”
“In the end it was that we wanted it so much and the chemistry and the connection, everything clicked in those moments and we went for it,” Christman said.
Cooper ignited the Rams’ run in the pivotal third quarter as they extended a four-point lead (22-18) into a 10-point lead (39-29) at the end of three.
“She was such a spark in the second half,” Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel said of Cooper. “And she did such a good job defending, blocking out and doing the kind of work that you often don’t take notice of.”
Christman served as the cooler at the free-throw line after Perk Valley got as close as 48-45 with 36.3 remaining thanks in large part to the Vikings’ super seniors Megan Jonassen (23 points, 9 rebounds) and Taylor Hamm (14 points, 9 rebounds).
After the celebration and cutting of the nets after Spring-Ford won its seventh PAC championship in the playoff era following three-peats from 2005-08 and 2011-14, McDaniel couldn’t speak any more highly of the Rams’ entire senior group that also includes Ali Higgins, Kali Kratz and Dez Engle.
“The leadership on this team from the entire senior class in incredible. There were some seniors who didn’t play tonight, but their leadership on the bench was as critical as being on the floor,” McDaniel said. “Everyone wants to play, but this senior class – I get emotional – they are really special. We saw it in the summer, how special they were. We held team camps and the inclusiveness and how they made even eighth graders feel part of the program. Right on through into the season, they are making everyone feel important.
“In our program your goal is to make everyone else better, yet that person may be the one to take your minutes away. But now you know that you have to work harder because of that. This senior group is not afraid of that and that’s what has given them a championship.”
Having talented underclassmen is great, but it only works if they aren’t cut down by more established players.
Spring-Ford may enjoy more nights like Wednesday in the years to come. But it will be in part thanks to an atmosphere to flourish and a group of players who hadn’t been to the PAC’s summit, but knew the path.
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