Pioneer Athletic Conference girls basketball returned to the court Thursday night by picking up where it left off: with Spring-Ford opposing Methacton.
What’s changed since they last met in last year’s PAC championship game on Feb. 20, 2020? Just about everything in life and competing in sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is Spring-Ford holding the upperhand in the rivalry.
Returning PAC leading scorer Lucy Olsen picked up where she left off by scoring 20 points, fellow senior Emily Tiffan dropped 16 and the Rams rolled past the Warriors 67-44, in the opener of the delayed winter season.
“It’s so great to be back and playing and with a new team. Everyone has such a positive energy and attitude to get the season started,” said Olsen, the two-time Mercury All-Area Player of the Year who signed for Villanova in November.
“I feel like anyone is eager to play, especially a group that loves basketball so much.”
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) January 15, 2021
“I was definitely excited and had those pre-first game anxious feelings,” said Tiffan who is back healthy after missing the majority of her junior season due to injury. “I think we played really well.”
Spring-Ford, which went 24-6 and reached the second round of the PIAA Class 6A tournament a year ago, is the favorite to win a fourth straight PAC championship. The Rams graduated a pair of starters but look to have plenty in reserve. Senior guard Abbey Boyer added nine points, junior forward Juliana Scogna had a strong game inside with seven points and a pair of freshmen, starting point guard Anna Azzara (9 points) and reserve forward Mac Pettinelli, had inspired varsity debuts.
For Methacton, returning leading scorer Nicole Timko scored 17 in her junior season debut while sophomore guard Cassidy Kropp scored 13. That backcourt duo are the lone returning starters for the Warriors, who introduced Tori Bockrath, Allie Hazlett and Mairi Smith into Thursday’s starting five.
The atmosphere was unique – albeit the new normal this winter – with socially-distanced benches, players masked at all times and spectators limited to a single entrant per each home athlete.
Players showed no sign of complaint about the face coverings, but it may still be a work in progress for high-energy, high-minute players like Olsen.
“I thought I was used to it from practice, but mine is soaking wet,” she said. “It’s not even that it’s hard to breathe, it’s just that I’m breathing in salt water. It’s disgusting.”
Spring-Ford kicked the game into gear employing a full-court press that built an 8-1 lead with three straight baskets without allowing Methacton past halfcourt. The lead grew to 15-5 after one quarter.
The Warriors found their offense in the second quarter but Olsen scored 12 of her 20 in the frame and the Rams’ lead grew to 34-21 at halftime with a late 4-0 run.
Spring-Ford was never threatened in the second half, growing the lead bit by bit late for the 23-point victory.
While the waiting was the hardest part, the Rams made the most of their first game opportunity of the season.
“I think our attitude is really good. We’re so excited to get back after such a long, pushed back start, that we’re finally here and getting to play,” Tiffan said.