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No. 1 Spring-Ford boys basketball reaches first District 1 final in program history with win over No. 5 Downingtown West

Spring-Ford guard Jacob Nguyen (3) leaps up for a layup against Downingtown West in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals at Spring-Ford High School on Feb. 28. (Evan Wheaton - MediaNews Group)

ROYERSFORD >> EJ Campbell was taken aback when informed of his postgame stat line.

The junior guard unloaded a game-high 27 points, going 8-for-8 from the field and 8-of-8 at the free throw line with five assists and four rebounds.

He hit three shots from 3-point range — more than No. 5 Downingtown West combined — to lift No. 1 Spring-Ford, 66-52 in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals at home on Tuesday.

“I did not know that. That was probably one of the best games I’ve had,” Campbell said, blinking in astonishment as realization set in. “In the playoffs, you just have that aura around you to just play better … I was just so focused on the game, I didn’t really look up at the score. I just tried to lock in.”

Campbell found his groove right from the opening tip. The 6-foot-4 sophomore scored five points in a 7-0 run for the Rams (25-2) to start the game. He had 15 points by halftime, by which point Spring-Ford led the Whippets (21-6), 26-17.

With the win, Spring-Ford advances to its first District 1 final in program history and will take No. 3 Plymouth Whitemarsh in the title game at Temple on Saturday, tipoff at 6 p.m.

“Nobody thought we were gonna be this far. We were top-three in the PAC rankings and nobody thought we were gonna win it,” Campbell said. “We surprised a lot of people.”

Spring-Ford guard Caleb Little (12) jumps up to make a floater in traffic against Downingtown West in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals at Spring-Ford High School on Feb. 28. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Downingtown West responded to the 7-0 run with a seven-point swing of its own. Whippets junior Antonio Lewis (8 points) hit a layup off a steal on Spring-Ford’s end to tie things up, 7-7 with 1:55 left in the first quarter.

Campbell retook the lead with an and-one — finishing the first quarter with eight points. From there, Spring-Ford pulled ahead with an 11-point run, outscoring Downingtown West 16-8 in the second quarter.

The Rams never lost their lead again, ballooning it by as much as 16 points in the third frame.

“I said, ‘Make them beat us. Don’t give them the game,’” Spring-Ford coach Joe Dempsey said. “I think we made them (try) beat us and (didn’t) beat ourselves by turning it over and doing stupid things.”

Sophomore guard Jacob Nguyen — the fourth-leading scorer in the Pioneer Athletic Conference at 15.6 points per game — had just three first-half points before pouring on 13 through the latter two frames.

Nguyen was stacked up against a familiar face in Downingtown West sophomore Donovan Fromhartz. Fromhartz, a 6-foot-6 wing, is Nguyen’s Philly Pride AAU teammate. The two found themselves clashing in PIAA play, Fromhartz leading the Whippets with 15 points.

“I know Donny very well. He’s a very tough player. He can score at all three levels, so I just tried to contain him and do my best,” Nguyen said.

Downingtown West’s Dylan Blair (3) drives to the paint against Spring-Ford in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals at Spring-Ford High School on Feb. 28. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Army commit Dylan Blair scored 12 points for Downingtown West and senior Kelly Bell had 13. The Whippets cut the game as close to seven points, 57-50 with 1:17 to go in the fourth quarter.

The Rams were aided by a collective 12-of-15 outing at the stripe to keep ahead. On the night, Spring-Ford shot 16-of-19 in free throws, a substantial improvement on its 4-of-13 mark against Garnet Valley in the District 1-6A quarterfinals last week.

“It got a little hairy at the end, it got down to seven I think. I said, ‘Ok, we’re gonna have to make foul shots.’ The kids have been working hard on that,” Dempsey said.

Downingtown West’s Antonio Lewis (5) weaves past Spring-Ford’s Tyree Banks (2) in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals at Spring-Ford High School on Feb. 28. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Reaching the District 1 final for the first time in program history is on-brand for a Spring-Ford team that’s been a force of nature through 2022-23.

The Rams rode a 20-game win streak through the regular season, won their first PAC championship since 2015-16 and secured the top-seed in the district tournament well before the start of postseason play.

With one more victory against a loaded Plymouth Whitemarsh squad that’s currently riding a 19-game win streak, yet another treasure would be added to the growing wealth of riches.

“It feels good to set records,” Campbell said. “Hopefully we get a banner hanging up.”

Spring-Ford 66, Downingtown West 52


Downingtown West98142152

Downingtown West: Blair 5 2-7 12; Lewis 4 0-0 8; Bell 6 0-2 13; Barker 1 2-3 4; Neuhaus 0 0-0 0; Fromhartz 5 4-4 15; Suarez 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 8-16 52
Spring-Ford: Campbell 8 8-8 27; Banks 1 0-0 2; Nguyen 5 3-3 16; Zollers 2 0-0 4; McKenna 0 0-0 0; Johnson 0 0-0 0; Dellangelo 0 0-0 0; Little 1 1-2 3; Kelly 3 1-2 7; Lewis 2 3-4 7; Pufko 0 0-0 0; Mokonchu 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 16-19 66
3-point goals: Bell, Fromhartz, Campbell 3, Nguyen 3

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