Spring-Ford seeking repeat

Spring-Ford's Sammy Stipa (front) will be playing her final high school game, along with fellow seniors Shelby Mueller and Kaity Dougherty.
Spring-Ford's Sammy Stipa (front) will be playing her final high school game, along with fellow seniors Shelby Mueller and Kaity Dougherty. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 22, 2014

When the Spring-Ford girls' basketball team walks into Hershey's Giant Center on Friday evening, things are really going to feel familiar.

The site is where the Rams won their first PIAA Class AAAA state championship a season ago.

And the opponent, Cumberland Valley, is the squad Spring-Ford beat for the state crown. The Rams also faced the Eagles in a scrimmage and the regular-season finale this year.

So, yes, for Sammy Stipa, Shelby Mueller, and Maggie Locke - all players who made significant contributions on the court at Hershey in the past - walking back onto the floor is sure to bring a flood of memories.

While the parallels are hard to ignore, Rams coach Mickey McDaniel is firm in his belief that this team has a separate and distinctive personality from the one that went home with gold medals last year.

"They recognize and understand tradition," McDaniel said. "They understand what we did last year, but they know their identity is different this year."

The Rams (26-6) will take on Cumberland Valley (27-5) at 6 p.m. Already this season, Spring-Ford defeated the Eagles at home, 52-37.

"We are both on a roll and having a lot of success," McDaniel said. "But what we have now is a game in March. It isn't February - it is March."

"Haven't spoken about last year, the scrimmage this year, or the game this year," McDaniel continued. "We have a firm belief and philosophy to stay in the moment. The moment is now."

For the Rams, ranked third in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, it starts with the three seniors - Stipa, Mueller, and Kaity Dougherty - who are a combined 109-18 in their four years.

"Either way Friday, we say goodbye to three seniors who have meant so much to the program on so many different levels," McDaniel said. "We couldn't have asked any more from this group of seniors."

Stipa is averaging 15 points in the state playoffs, and Mueller has scored almost 12 a game throughout state play.

Seeking first crown. A Catholic League championship, District 12 Class AA crown, and 29-0 record aren't enough for Neumann-Goretti. The Saints have their sights set on a state title and a perfect season.

The perfect season will be on the line at noon Friday, as the Saints face the District 7 champion, Seton-La Salle (26-4), for the Class AA state championship at the Giant Center.

The Saints are led by junior point guard Ciani Cryor, who averages a team-high 13 points; junior Sianni Martin (11 ppg.); and senior Ella Awobajo (8). Neumann-Goretti averages 62 points and has won by double digits in all but two contests this season.

Remarkably, the Saints are outscoring opponents in the state tournament by a combined score of 253-137, with an average margin of victory of 29 points in four state games.


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