Marcus’ game-winner clinches unbeaten PAC-10 season for Boyertown

ROYERSFORD — A 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and looking well on its way to another win, Boyertown coach Jason Bieber knew better.

His Bears were playing Spring-Ford. That means don’t bother getting comfortable.

“Not with our rivalry. Never,’ Bieber said. “We’ve had some epic games. We had the 26-point comeback a couple of years ago, the triple-overtime PAC-10 championship … we just have a great rivalry.’

Add Thursday night’s game to the list.

Spring-Ford stormed back in the fourth quarter to tie it with under 30 seconds remaining, but Boyertown sophomore guard Alli Marcus drained an 18-foot jumper with 4 seconds on the clock to give the Bears a thrilling 46-44 victory in Spring-Ford’s gymnasium.

Boyertown managed to keep its undefeated record intact and clinch an undefeated PAC-10 season (13-0) and won its 21st game of the season, all but locking up the No. 1 seed for the District 1-AAAA playoffs.

Leading scorer Abby Kapp again led the way with 17 points while Maria Garofolo chipped in with eight points. Garofolo’s prints were all over the final sequence as she drove along the baseline, missed but grabbed her own rebound and kicked it out to Marcus (7 points), who made the game-winner look easy.

“(During the final sequence) my mentality was ‘˜get the ball to Abby’ because she’s our shooter,’ Marcus said. “But I knew that if the ball came to me I would have to shoot it. When the ball came to me I had a lot of confidence to make the shot. I knew as soon as I shot it that it was in.’

With a 21-0 record, it’s easy to forget this Boyertown squad is largely inexperienced and features only one senior who plays significant minutes.

“It’s my first year — even as a junior — going to the PAC-10 championship Final Four,’ said junior forward Ali Bauman, who turned distributor with six assists and four points. “It’s been incredible, an all-around team effort that I’ve loved every minute of.’

Spring-Ford’s Abby Beyer (team-high 11 points) fueled the comeback with a pair of 3-pointers (one of the and-1 variety) to overcome a 41-31 deficit midway through the fourth quarter.

“It was a typical Boyertown-Spring-Ford game — we have to make things exciting in this rivalry,’ Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel said. “We come out with the quick start but we got into a lull. Part of that was them (the Bears’ defense), but part was us. We just stopped moving on offense.

“Then all of a sudden the sense of urgency hit and we really realized, ‘˜Hey, we’re fighting for our lives here.’ When we got that sense of urgency and we started making things happen. You could feel the energy pick up.’

It wasn’t a case of too little too late for Spring-Ford, which tied it at 44-44 with under 30 seconds on a steal and layup by Julia Roshelli (nine points).

The bottom line was Boyertown scored last and gave the Bears a season sweep in the rivalry after their controversial 38-36 overtime win on Dec. 18.

Spring-Ford fell to 8-4 in the PAC-10 (13-8 overall), and is even with Perkiomen Valley (8-4, 16-4), and looks to be on the outside looking in for the PAC-10 Final Four. If the Rams and Vikings finish with tied records, PV takes the tiebreaker on the 7th criteria (power points against non-league opponents).

The Rams started in fine fashion, the Bears uncomfortable against the defensive-pressure of Amy Roth (10 points), Maggie Locke (6 points) and Spring-Ford to lead 13-10 after the first quarter.

But the Boyertown defense stole the spotlight to start the second quarter, getting five steals on five possessions at the start of the frame, three apiece in the quarter from sophomore Katie Armstrong and Marcus.

“Katie Armstrong came off the bench and gave us a huge spark,’ Bieber said. “In about a minute or so she had four (defensive) touches. She got big steals and gave us a lot of energy.’

The Bears made a quick turnaround to lead at halftime, 25-19, using smart backdoor cuts to the basket to their advantage.

“With the way Spring-Ford plays defense, they like to get tight up on you, so we saw an opportunity to go (to the basket),’ Bieber said. “And the girls did a good job of that, but if you don’t they’ll engulf you.’

Boyertown built its biggest lead on a Sarafina Valenti free throw at the start of the fourth quarter, 37-25, but the Rams weren’t done.

“We had a lot of trouble containing them. They were getting a lot of middle drives and dishing,’ Bieber said. “They are a really well-coached team. Coach McDaniel does a great job with them and you knew they were going to fight back in the end. They were not going to back away.’

Even as the three-time defending league champions showed their pedigree, Boyertown kept calm.

“We had to keep our composure,’ Bauman said. “They started hitting the outside shots they weren’t making in the beginning. We just needed to execute the way we know how to.’

Fortunately for the Bears, they were in good hands with Marcus.

“Alli is a great shooter,’ Bieber said. “She has the best shooting percentage on our team for the season. If she’s open and her feet are set she’s going to make that 9 out of 10 times.’

NOTES — Boyertown shot 18-for-33 from the floor while Spring-Ford was 17-for-42. Of Boyertown’s 18 baskets, 11 were assisted. … Locke had eight rebounds for the Rams while Garofolo led the Bears with five. … A full crowd was on hand at Spring-Ford, good preparation for the impending playoffs as Marcus sees it. “The biggest factor is going to be staying mentally tough,’ she said. “That’s what we came out and really showed tonight.’

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