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Spring-Ford, Methacton, Pope John Paul II set to represent PAC in PIAA tournament

Three Pioneer Athletic Conference girls basketball teams begin their pursuit of a PIAA championship this weekend.

On Friday, Freedom High School in Bethlehem will host a PAC doubleheader featuring Class 6A entrants Spring-Ford and Methacton. District 1 fourth-place Spring-Ford (21-4) faces District 11 No. 3 Nazareth (21-6) at 6 p.m. followed by District 1 11th-place Methacton (21-6) against District 11 champion Northampton (24-4) at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday in Class 5A play, Pope John Paul II (15-11), the sixth-place team from District 1, faces District 3 champion Palmyra (16-10) at Milton Hershey High School at 3 p.m.

Spring-Ford’s Olivia Olsen (14) drives against the defense of Upper Dublin’s Jackie Vargas during their District 1-6A quarterfinal Saturday. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Spring-Ford (1-4) vs. Nazareth (11-3) >> Spring-Ford is making its second straight PIAA appearance after a similar run in districts as 2018 where the Rams reached the semifinals but dropped two straight games to place fourth.

Nazareth is making its fifth straight PIAA playoff appearance. The Eagles have been unable to get out of the first round in the previous four, last year falling to Council Rock North 47-34 as the District 11 runner-up.

Spring-Ford, which won a second-straight PAC championship this winter, had a first-round exit a year ago to another District 11 opponent, William Allen.

Both teams are led in scoring by sophomores. Sophomore point guard Lucy Olsen leads Spring-Ford with 15.3 points per game. For Nazareth, 6-1 sophomore forward Talya Brugler is averaging 14.5 points per game.

Senior wing Cassie Marte averages 9.0 per game. The balanced Rams also get key contributions from sophomore guard Emily Tiffan (6.7 ppg) and senior forward Olivia Olsen (5.4 ppg). Skylar Sullivan, Ariana Magazzolo, Gabs Alessandroni, Abbey Boyer, Hailey Hudak and Alyssa Yuan also are in the rotation.

Nazareth’s other threats are twin senior guards Madison Amy (10.3 ppg) and Morgan Amy (6.4). The Eagles, who finished second in the East Penn Conference Skyline Division, made the District 11 semifinals but fell to Freedom. They won a seeding game over Parkland, 52-44.

Methacton’s Abby Penjuke (42) drives to the hoop March 2 against Pennsbury. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Methacton (1-11) vs. Northampton (11-1) >> Methacton took the long road to state playoff qualification, earning the 11th and final District 1 spot in its second chance with a 26-17 win over Pennsbury.

Northampton won its first District 11 championship in 11 years behind the efforts of four-year standout Victoria Keenan, who is averaging 18.9 points per game. Keenan, a 5-7 senior guard, has dominated this season, especially the Konkrete Kids’ last three outings where she has scored 27, 32, and 28 points.

The PAC runner-up Warriors get double-digit scoring from freshman guard Nicole Timko (12.2 ppg, PAC-best 62 3-pointers) and junior forward Sydney Tornetta (11.3). Senior Abby Penjuke transitioned from forward to point guard this season and averages 8.2 ppg. The Warriors rotation also includes Caroline Pellicano, Allison Hazlett, freshman Tori Bockrath and forward Sydney Hargrove, who missed the Warriors last two playback games.

Complementing Keenan’s play for Northampton is 6-0 senior forward Jenna Rogers (15.0) and sophomore guard Morgan Sterner (11.8).

Lauren Ciuba, top, Kallan Bustynowicz, facing, and the Pope John Paul II girls basketball team celebrate after defeating Harriton to claim a PIAA playoff berth Feb. 26. (Barry Taglieber – For MediaNews Group)

Pope John Paul II (1-6) vs. Palmyra (3-1) >> The Golden Panthers made a surprise run from the 11th seed in the District 1-5A playoffs, clinching a state berth with a furious fourth-quarter rally past Harriton, 41-32, in playbacks. PJP upset No. 6 Great Valley in districts and pushed No. 3 West Chester Henderson in the second round. PJP’s most recent outing was a 47-31 loss to Radnor in the district fifth-place game on March 1.

The Golden Panthers are led by senior guard Elise Sylvester (10.4 ppg) and sophomore forward Kallan Bustynowicz (10.7). Other rotation players include senior Lauren Ciuba, freshmen Tess Crossan and Amelia Kennedy and junior Kayla Viney.

Palmyra’s run was well more surprising than PJP’s: The Cougars entered District 3 play just over .500, at 12-10, and as the No. 12 seed. They ran off four straight wins, including a 54-51 overtime win over top-seed Solanco in the semifinals, before beating Gettysburg, 31-23, for the title on March 1.

Palmyra is led by four-year starters Olivia Richardson, a 6-0 forward, and 5-7 guard Amelia Baldo.

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