Abington cools off Spring-Ford, heads to District 1-AAAA final

HOLLAND — The Abington fans began to chant midway through the fourth quarter.

“We want Temple! We want Temple!’ shouted the crowd, bolstered by a fan bus arriving fresh off of the Abington boys’ team’s district semifinal win at the Liacouras Center.

With the way the Ghosts were playing, the fans could have been calling for them to challenge the Owls women’s team rather than the site of the District 1-AAAA girls basketball championship game.

The fans and players will get their wish as Abington put on a dominant performance to cool off three-time defending district finalist Spring-Ford in a 66-43 victory to advance to the final on Friday night at Temple’s Liacouras Center.

Guard Sammy Lochner caught fire on the way to 20 points on 8 of 10 shooting while standout guard Deja Rawls scored 16. Bre Bremel added 10 for the No. 5 seed Ghosts (24-4), which get a rematch of the Suburban One League final with Central Bucks West after the Bucks routed Downingtown East in the earlier semifinal at Council Rock South.

“It’s really exciting especially because we get to go against CB West again and try to beat them. They beat us in the SOL final so it should be fun,’ Lochner said.

“(This win) gives us confidence. We played great ‘˜D’ and we were knocking down shots.’

No. 16 Spring-Ford (17-9) couldn’t summon the type of performance that gave it another strong run in the district playoffs that included knocking off top seed Boyertown and a dominant defensive performance in the quarterfinals against North Penn (41-35).

The Rams were led by Maggie Locke’s 11 points while Amy Roth and Sydney Wagner each scored six points.

“It’s not fun to lose a game like that,’ Spring-Ford senior captain Julia Roshelli said. “But getting to the semis is a huge accomplishment. We’re going to use this loss to fuel us into states.

“We’re still going. We play Saturday (in the No. 3 seed playback against Downingtown East at 6 p.m.) and then we start our state playoff run.’

It was the Rams’ inability to stop Abington’s able shooters and Rawls’ ability to drive to the basket after jumping out to a 12-6 lead that fueled the Ghosts’ victory.

“Our defense wasn’t the best it’s been,’ Roshelli said. “Our defense has been stellar the past two games and it just didn’t come out on point tonight. That was one of our biggest problems, we fuel our offense off of our defense.’

After trailing by six early, Abington went on a 12-0 run keyed by a Lochner 3-pointer and capped by a jumper from inside presence Elizabeth O’Leary (four points) for a 18-12 lead.

By halftime Abington extended the lead to 11, 34-23, Lochner provided a crucial swing with a steal and layup and-one on the Rams’ inbound pass in the closing seconds. What could have been a six-point game at the half was instead 11.

“After I made my first one I could feel it and kept on shooting,’ Lochner said. “I was knocking down my shots. They were collapsing on Liz because she’s always a threat for double-doubles. They were collapsing on her and giving all the guards open shots.’

“We’re definitely sharing the ball and getting ourselves open shots.’

The Ghosts put together another 12-0 run in the third quarter to put the game well out of reach, turning a 41-27 lead into a 53-27 advantage at the start of the fourth quarter. The Rams cooled the Ghosts in the third quarter but were turnover-prone (20 total to Abington’s 13).

“We didn’t play our normal level of defense tonight,’ Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel said. “Maybe that was partly them, partly us. We just didn’t do what we normally do, jumping to the ball, taking away the penetration and getting out on the kick-outs. We were just a half-step slow.’

Abington proved what can happen if a team doesn’t have its best.

But all is not lost in the eyes of the Rams. Not by a long shot considering each of the past two years have ended on the final day of the season in the PIAA title game.

“Our kids have busted their tails all year. Not getting in that (PAC-10) Final Four propelled them to have a hunger to get here,’ McDaniel said. “Tonight, we got beat by a better team. We realize that.

“We have to regroup, get ready for Downingtown and let’s go get that third seed and get into states and start anew.’

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