Hokanson comes up big as Spring-Ford drops Phoenixville in PAC playoff opener

POTTSTOWN >> In the absence of one of their standout scorers, Spring-Ford needed someone to emerge.

Cue 6-5 senior forward Austin Hokanson.

Spring-Ford’s big man stepped up, using his size advantage to score a season-high 21 points and lead the Rams to a 68-54 win over Phoenixville during the opening round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Final Six playoffs Tuesday night at Pottstown.

Spring-Ford’s Noah Baker, left, and Austin Hokanson smile with one another in the late stages of the Rams’ PAC playoff win over Phoenixville Tuesday at Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The Rams set up shop in the paint offensively, oftentimes using an extra pass that culminated in an easy finish.

“We’ve got a lot of size over most of the teams in the PAC,” said Hokanson, “especially over a team like Phoenixville. I’d say they’re the smallest team in the playoffs. So we knew that if we got at their big man (Brendan Jenkins) and attacked, we’d be successful.”

Hokanson and the Rams controlled the glass on both ends and put together plenty of second-chance points. They did the brunt of their damage in the third quarter, using a 12-1 run over the final two minutes to take a 54-39 lead into the final frame.

Spring-Ford’s Noah Baker (23) drives into the paint against Phoenixville. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Junior wing Noah Baker finished with 18 points and eight boards while junior forward Robert Bobeck followed with 11 rebounds and 12 points, six of which came on put-backs.

“With Baker, Bobeck and Hokanson, we felt like we could get a lot of offensive rebounds,” said head coach Chris Talley. “We sent three to the glass on every offensive possession. Besides Jenkins, team size isn’t their strength, so it was something we felt like we could exploit.”

With the win, the Rams (5-5 PAC Liberty Division, 14-9 overall) set up a semifinal round game against the Liberty Division’s top seed, Norristown (8-2 Liberty, 15-6 overall) on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Phoenixville finishes out at 6-4 in the Frontier Division and 9-14 overall, though the Phantoms are holding out hope for a spot in the District 1-5A playoffs.

Phoenixville’s Quinn Danna (10) comes up with a steal as Spring-Ford’s Tyler Scilingo pursues during their PAC playoff game Tuesday at Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

After giving it a go in pregame and halftime warmups, Spring-Ford’s second-leading scorer, Nestor Diaz, was held out with an ankle injury for the second straight game. With Diaz sidelined, sophomore guard Tyler Scilingo and junior front-court mate Ryan Hagan were the primary ball-handlers along with Baker.

“Nestor’s our three-year starter,” said Talley. “He’s a guy that has the ball in his hands a lot and defensively, he’s our rock. I’m proud of the way we were able to fight through adversity and other guys stepped up.

“We tried to err on the side of caution, because down the road, especially in district play, we’ll need him.”

Phoenixville’s Steven Hamilton. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Phoenixville senior forward Quinn Danna and sophomore guard Steven Hamilton finished with 11 points apiece while senior forward Jenkins scored nine. The Phantoms led 28-27 late in the second half before Hagan hit a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to give Spring-Ford a 30-28 lead it wouldn’t again relinquish.

Phoenixville was done in by a 24-11 disadvantage in the third quarter, a trend that head coach Eric Burnett says has haunted the Phantoms all season.

“That’s kind of been where we’ve been, we’ve competed with teams early on then let it slip away in the second half,” he said. “I’ve got to give credit to Spring-Ford. They adjusted to some of our changing defenses — we threw a lot of different looks at them early on. They capitalized on our lack of rotation.”

Spring-Ford’s Austin Hokanson (44) puts up a jumper against Phoenixville. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

District Doings >> As it stands right now, Phoenixville is No. 18 in the District 1-5A rankings, which shrinks to a pool of 16 when the tournament starts next week. With no games left on the regular season schedule, the Phantoms’ destiny is now out of their own hands.

“One or two losses somewhere this week could help shake some things out,” said Burnett. “You never know. If it is the end, I couldn’t be prouder for our guys, especially our seniors — Brendan Jenkins, Zion Small, Quinn Danna, Vincent Moffa and Tim Kopera.”

Spring-Ford is currently sitting at No. 11 in the Class 6A rankings, where 24 teams qualify for the tournament.

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