GRATERFORD >> It is the great equalizer, the flip-a-switch game-changer — the 3-pointer.
Boyertown had the game in the bag … or so it seemed. With 1:14 left in regulation of the PAC Franklin K. Manley girls Final Four semifinal Saturday night, the Lady Bears owned a 10-point lead over Spring-Ford, 44-34. And then it started raining heavily from beyond the Spring-Ford arc.
Three three-pointers by the Rams in the final 1:01 of regulation — two by Sydney Wagner, one by Alyssa Conway, sandwiched around a long two by Lauren Mensch — changed everything. Boyertown missed two free throws and committed a turnover during that span to help the Ram cause, and after Wagner’s three with 19.7 remaining, the game went to overtime, tied at 45.
But rather than panic, Boyertown showed immense poise, pulling itself together in overtime to win, 57-51, and advance to Wednesday’s PAC final against Methacton. Senior guard Katie Armstrong scored eight points in the extra session to lead the way.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Armstrong said with a smile afterward, “but when I looked at my teammates before overtime and saw they were all composed, we were fine.”
“I made a few mistakes there late in the game, but give Spring-Ford credit — they were on fire,” Boyertown coach Jason Bieber said. “That’s your worst nightmare, a team making threes like that when you have a lead. But our kids did a nice job. We’ve had a lot of close games this year, and that helped. We showed patience and experience, and it’s great our kids didn’t panic.”
“We never put our heads down,” junior guard Kylie Webb said. “We always know we’re there for each other.”
Spring-Ford trailed by a high of 11 with three minutes left. The Rams (16-8), who fell to the Lady Bears (20-3) by 19 just 10 days prior, led briefly on two occasions in the first half but were fighting uphill much of the second half against the tenacious Boyertown defense. The Rams went over five minutes without points in the third quarter, yet they stayed in the Lady Bears’ side view mirror with their own determined defense, trailing by eight heading for the fourth quarter.
And a Ram team that had trailed Bentonville, Ark., by 22 in the third quarter of a holiday tournament at Disney World — and won — wasn’t stepping off the gas pedal. Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel marveled at his team’s effort, especially down the stretch.
“It’s about their heart, soul and spirit,” McDaniel said. “That’s what drove them to come back. I’m really proud of them. That sense of urgency we had gave us the energy we needed.
“Give Boyertown credit. They’re a very good team, play well together and they’re extremely well-coached. But when you play like we did with heart, soul and spirit and fall short, it hurts.”
Boyertown star Abby Kapp led everyone with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Armstrong added eight rebounds — Boyertown outboarded the Rams 37-24, including 14-6 on the offensive glass — to go with her dozen points. Kylie Webb was superb, scoring 14 and pulling down five boards. Likewise Victoria Boalton, whom Bieber gave praise for tightly guarding the talented Wagner, turned in a strong performance.
Spring-Ford got 17 points from Wagner, including four three-pointers, 13 points and seven rebounds from forward Maddie Haney — who also played good defense in a good battle with Kapp — and 10 from Conway.
Kapp’s terrific pivot move in the lane gave the Lady Bears their 11-point lead with three minutes left. That had followed her three-pointer and a bucket by Boalton, off a Webb feed, to keep the Rams at bay. Momentarily, anyway.
After a five-second inbound violation on Boyertown following Wagner’s three, which had cut it to seven (44-37), Conway hit a trifecta to make it a four-point game. Between missed Boyertown free throws came Mensch’s wing jumper, then after Wagner tied it at 45, Boyertown missed inside the final 10 seconds and had fouls to give to prevent a final decent Spring-Ford shot.
In OT, the Bears’ evolution as a team around Kapp continued to shine. Everybody dug in defensively, made plays and found open teammates. Armstrong drove or got free for three straight baskets. After Haney gave Spring-Ford the lead, 52-51, with 1:50 left, Armstrong scored, then Webb made a free throw, following a missed Ram three, to make it a four-point lead with 20 seconds left. Kapp added two free throws with 6.1 to go.
“I always say when the two of us get together on the court, you never know what’s going to happen,” Bieber said. “We have great respect for coach McDaniel and their program.”