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Spring-Ford’s run ended by Central Dauphin in PIAA 6A quarterfinal

Spring-Ford's Anna Azzara drives between Central Dauphin defenders Caroline Shiery (11) and Alexis Ferguson during a PIAA 6A quarterfinal Tuesday at Manheim Township. (Austin Hertzog - MediaNews Group)

A run few outside the Spring-Ford girls basketball program expected came to an end Tuesday night.

After digging itself out of trouble to force overtime against District 3 champion Central Dauphin, the Rams went cold in the extra period and suffered a season-ending 47-41 defeat in a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal Tuesday night at Manheim Township High School.

Senior center Caroline Shiery overcame early foul trouble to score a game-high 17 points for Central Dauphin (24-4), which advances to face District 7 champion Mount Lebanon, a winner in its quarterfinal over Easton Tuesday. Marlie Dickerson added 13.

Spring-Ford got a team-high 15 points from sophomore Mac Pettinelli while classmate Anna Azzara had a double-double including a hard-fought 10 points.

Spring-Ford (25-7) saw its season end after winning a fifth straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, reaching the District 1 title game and PIAA quarterfinals, a remarkable postseason push with its core group primarily sophomores.

“You love everything about what they did. They’ve accomplished a lot,” said S-F head coach Mickey McDaniel. “They’re not thinking about those accomplishments right now but when this pain subsides and they realize what they’ve done — from a team that was third in its division to winning a (PAC) championship. Who expected them to play for a district championship? Who expected them to even be in this spot? They found ways to get it done.”

Central Dauphin’s Megan Cavoli (10) drives as Spring-Ford’s Katie Tiffan defends Tuesday. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

After winning the District 1 championship and reaching the PIAA finals in 2021, it would have seemed Spring-Ford would have to take a step back while replacing four starters. Falling back to the pack was not of interest to the PAC’s Rams though.

“I’m definitely upset because it was a such a great season and great experience with everyone,” said Kam Pufko, Spring-Ford’s lone senior. “It’s been such a fun season. Everyone didn’t think we could make it here and proving everyone wrong.”

Spring-Ford was out of sorts early but got going on 3s from Pettinelli and Katie Tiffan (3 points). It took its first lead on a Meg Robbins turnaround jumper in the closing minutes of the first.

SF’s defense held CD to only four points in the second quarter. A number of open 3s didn’t fall, but the PAC Rams managed their first two-possession lead at 17-12 late in the second quarter, which was the score at halftime.

Central Dauphin’s Caroline Shiery grabs a rebound during overtime against Spring-Ford Tuesday. (Austin Hertzog – MNG)

Senior-dominated Central Dauphin came out inspired in the third quarter and regained the lead on a Megan Cavoli 3-pointer (8 points) to go up 23-21 with three minutes left in the third quarter as the momentum and whistle turned in CD’s favor. Central Dauphin was in the bonus with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

CD opened a seven-point lead (28-21) but a final-minute sequence of Robbins going 1-for-2 at the line and Pufko getting the offensive rebound and being fouled before a 2-for-2 free throw trip to stay within range down 28-24 entering the fourth quarter.

Central Dauphin had a nervy end to regulation with missed free throws and turnovers that allowed S-F back in and Pufko tied the game 34-34 with 58.6 remaining on a 2-for-2 trip to the line. Pettinelli had a half-court heave at the buzzer fall short after a CD turnover.

The overtime period was all Central Dauphin as they scored the first nine points to open a 43-34 lead, five from Shiery, a 6-3 center. Pettinelli hit a 3-pointer and the foul to get within 43-38 with 41.8 seconds left but it was too little too late.

For the underclassmen-led Spring-Ford group it was an early arrival to some. It’s an exciting future to all.

“I think they’ll be so successful next year and the years to come,” said Pufko. “I’m excited to see what they do.”

“I just love this group. I’m so proud of the way they’ve represented our program, our community, their families and themselves,” McDaniel said. “They worked hard every day.”


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