ROYERSFORD >> Alyssa Yuan stepped to the free-throw line for Spring-Ford in the final second of a District 1 Class 6A second round game against all-too-familiar foe Owen J. Roberts and sunk the first.
As for the second, the Rams senior never got the chance to try.
With blood dripping from her arm, she had to leave the game, leaving the second to Mac Maloney to make and put the final touches on No. 3 Spring-Ford’s 48-39 victory over No. 14 Owen J. Roberts that sent the Rams back to the District 1-6A quarterfinals and the PIAA tournament.
The end of Yuan’s 14-point, 12-rebound performance was fitting though: after four meetings between the Pioneer Athletic Conference opponents, this rivalry felt like a blood battle.
The blood was Spring-Ford’s, the sweat shared, but the tears Owen J. Roberts’ after falling for a fourth time this season to the PAC champions.
Final: Spring-Ford 48, Owen J Roberts 39, District 1-6A girls basketball second round. No. 3 Rams survive a battle and move into quarters. A heartbreaker for Wildcats who still have playbacks for one of 11 state spots pic.twitter.com/ZwvYMKd5KF
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) February 20, 2020
“They’re kind of our Achilles’ heel. They’re the only team we can’t beat,” OJR coach Jeremy Mellon said. “It sucks for our seniors to be so close so many times, it’s crazy. It’s tough because we played such good ‘D’ and we’ve out-rebounded everybody since coming back from Florida (end of Dec.). We just hit stretches where we have possessions where we can’t put the ball in the basket and they make a big shot.”
“When we heard we were going to play them it was, ‘Ugh, again?’ But it doesn’t get to us,” Yuan said. “We just try our best and just play how we normally play. And we pulled through.”
Junior guard Lucy Olsen scored 15 points and had four assists, but was held to just two points in the second half by a dogged defensive effort from OJR’s Maddi Koury. Senior Skylar Sullivan scored 11, including seven in a row after OJR took its only lead, 32-31 midway through the third quarter.
Avery White and Olivia LeClaire both had double-doubles for the Wildcats, sophomore White with 15 points and 11 boards and senior LeClaire with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Spring-Ford advances to face No. 11 seed Central Bucks East, a 56-54 winner over No. 6 Ridley Tuesday night, on Saturday at home at 1:30 p.m.
OJR enters playbacks for one of District 1’s 11 Class 6A spots in the PIAA tournament. The Wildcats will visit Ridley.
While the regular-season meetings were tight, Spring-Ford handled OJR in their PAC semifinal on 54-38 on Feb. 8.
“I’ve watched so much film of them and even our last three games against them,” Mellon said. “Our last loss to them was actually a good loss because it made us make some adjustments. But you don’t ever want to overdo something, especially when you have two competitive games. You have to give them credit, to start with. They’re well-coached. They get the ball to Lucy when they need to and their other players played really well tonight, made shots and free throws when they needed to.”
Tuesday night had the look of the PAC semifinal early when Spring-Ford built a 26-16 lead with 4:44 left in the first half on a weaving basket by Olsen. But the Rams cooled off at that stage and OJR got within five at halftime, trailing 29-24.
The Wildcats owned the first half of the third quarter, a LeClaire driving score with 4:26 giving them their first lead at 32-31.
It turned out to be their last lead though. Sullivan scored the next seven points over the final four minutes of the third while OJR went cold, the senior shouldering the load in the game’s big moment.
“That was a little scary, not going to lie,” Sullivan said of OJR taking the lead. “Honestly, I just want to win a district championship and go on from there. I just put my best effort out and we all stepped up together.”
OJR’s drought didn’t end until 5:24 remained, its brief lead now a 40-34 deficit. A White and-1 made it a one-possession game at 40-37 with 5:01 to play, a score that would hold for nearly four minutes.
Abbey Boyer got free under the basket and was fouled for a three-point play with 1:16 left to give Spring-Ford the breathing room it needed to close the game out at the free-throw line – blood and all.
“When Abbey Boyer made that and-1, that was a big game-changer. We weren’t scoring a lot so that gave us more confidence,” Yuan said.
“We knew they were going to give their best effort,” Sullivan said. “We know how they play so we stepped our game up a little bit. They raised theirs, but we came up. It was exciting.”
NOTES >> OJR led in rebounding 29-22 but had 17 turnovers to 10 by S-F. … Both teams shot a similar percentage from the floor, Spring-Ford 16-for-43 (37.2 pct.) to OJR’s 15-for-42 (35.7 pct.) … Yuan was the Rams’ only player with more than three rebounds: “I feel prepared. For me, rebounding is all about ‘You’ve got to want it,’” she said. …The Wildcats may have been disappointed with the outcome, but not the performance. “We had such great performances on defense,” Mellon said. “Maddi did a great job on Lucy holding her to two points in the second half. And Brooke Greenawald (4 points, 5 rebounds) never gets the credit she deserves. She’s such a tough competitor, a rebounding machine, does all the little things and is super smart.” … Spring-Ford earned a place in the state tournament for a third straight year after runs to the District 1 semifinals in 2018 and 2019. “We’re excited, but we’re just going to keep focusing on districts and taking it one game at a time,” Yuan said.