Hot Spring-Ford seeks first state title

Posted: March 22, 2013

Up by seven points in the fourth quarter, the Spring-Ford girls' basketball team was looking to start its 2012-13 season with a win over Notre Dame.

But a remarkable 33-point performance by Megan McGurk propelled the Irish to a comeback win in the final seconds.

It was the last time the Rams have lost a game they were leading.

It also was the last time the Rams have lost to a team from Pennsylvania.

Since that opening loss, Spring-Ford (31-2) has been a different team, relying on its staunch defense and balanced attack to advance to the PIAA Class AAAA state final, a game they were one win away from a season ago.

"It's so important to us," junior forward Shelby Mueller said after her team's semifinal win Tuesday over Cardinal O'Hara. "We have just had the motivation because we ended our season last year at this time, so we wanted to take it a step farther this year. We had so much drive to do that."

"We are just so happy and so proud of each other," added Mueller, who averages 10 points and seven rebounds. "This is what we wanted, and we are so excited."

At 6 p.m. Friday at Hershey's Giant Center, Spring-Ford will play Cumberland Valley, a District 3 team that also relies on its defense, not allowing more than 40 points in its six straight wins.

Defense has been the name of the Rams' game all season, with senior Sarah Payonk saying it is the aspect of her game she is most proud of.

The forward, who averages more than 10 points and about eight rebounds, said that what she enjoys most is being successful at help defense, which leads to tips and steals that fuel Spring-Ford's transition game.

Rams opponents are averaging almost 38 points this season.

"It's hard work, but it's fun at the same time," Payonk said of the state tournament. "You are with all of your friends, and it's just a great time."

The Rams, ranked first in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, and Eagles have a common opponent in Mount St. Joseph, a team both squads faced twice this season.

Spring-Ford defeated the Magic in the regular season as well as in the District 1 tournament. The Eagles defeated the Mount by a point in the first round of the state tournament.

Spring-Ford also won, 52-43, against Wilson-West Lawn, which beat the Eagles, 50-34, in early January.

But none of that matters, not when so much is on the line for the Rams.

Spring-Ford will try to extend its 23-game win streak on Friday and capture the program's first state championship in the process.

Contact Kate Harman at Follow on Twitter @ka_harman.

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