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Spring-Ford tops Owen J. Roberts in match-up of PAC unbeatens

ROYERSFORD >> The Spring-Ford girls basketball team entered 2019 with a goal of getting better every day. That trajectory looked to be in good shape Thursday in a matchup of the last remaining Pioneer Athletic Conference unbeaten teams as the defending champion Rams defeated previously undefeated Owen J. Roberts, 55-47.

“We need to get one percent better every day we’re on the court,” Rams coach Mickey McDaniel said. “If we aren’t getting better than we are just wasting our time on the court.”

Spring-Ford (3-0 Liberty, 5-0 PAC, 7-2 overall) has spent its fair share of time on court after competing in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz., before Christmas, going 2-2 at the national invitational.

Spring-Ford’s Skylar Sullivan (30) drives to the hoop as Owen J. Roberts’ Kianna Daye defends during Thursday’s PAC contest at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Sophomore guard Lucy Olsen poured in 14 points, including three 3-pointers to lead all scorers, while Skylar Sullivan and Emily Tiffan added 9 points apiece.

“My teammates did a great job of getting me good looks,” Olsen said. “We played great defense tonight and did a good job of finding the open player on offense.”

The upstart Wildcats (3-1, 5-1, 8-1) got off to a decent start, opening up a 5-2 lead on a three by Hannah Clay and an Olivia Clark layup, but Spring-Ford held them scoreless for the rest of the first quarter. The Rams responded with a 17-3 run and entered the half with a 23-13 lead.

“Our goal for every player is to make someone else on the team better,” said McDaniel. “We want our team to push each other and if you can make someone else better, that is making the team better as a whole.”

Spring-Ford’s Cassie Marte (40) tips a pass from Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia LeClaire to force a steal during Thursday’s PAC contest at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The Rams hot shooting continued into the second half. A pair of threes by Sullivan and Tiffan pushed the Rams lead to 16, but the Wildcats did fight back and found themselves trailing by 11 heading into the fourth quarter.

“I was really proud of how our team fought tonight,” Owen J. Roberts coach Jeremy Mellon said. “I thought we looked real rusty in the first half, but we fought back in the second half and stayed competitive.”

The Wildcats struggled to make any progress in the fourth quarter, falling back by 17 with just 5 minutes remaining. However, OJR continued to fight and forced enough turnovers to cut the deficit to just single digits in the final seconds.

“I told our team we can learn a lot from a loss like this,” Mellon explained. “Sure, we could play bad teams and win big every night, but we wouldn’t get any better. I’m disappointed we lost, but we now have an idea of what we need to do to get better.”

Despite the loss, an 8-1 record is strong early returns from a OJR team that hasn’t been a PAC contender in recent history.

LeClaire was the leading scorer for the Wildcats, putting up 12 points before leaving in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. Diana Rantz chipped in with three 3-pointers and 11 total points of her own.

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