Change of pace

Young Rams rally with PAC title, trip to the district final, and a spot in the state quarterfinals

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Photo courtesy of Lifetouch

Spring-Ford sophomore Mac Pettinelli drives the basketball during the winter sports season.

Andrew Eross , Sports Editor

PAC Champions, District One runner-ups, and PIAA State Quarterfinalist finishers — all were feats of the Spring-Ford Girls Basketball Team’s 2021-2022 season that exceeded expectations in every way possible.

Time and again everyone has associated this year’s season as being a “retooling” or “rebuilding” season, where the season was to function as a way for a strong sophomore class featuring Anna Azzara, Mac Pettinelli, Katie Tiffan, Sienna Miller, and Aaliyah Solliday to see varsity minutes. Losing a historic 2021 senior class left the team in a seemingly developmental position, yet Coach Mickey McDaniel continued this program’s success with another dominant season.

The Rams finished the regular season with a very respectable 7-3 conference play record which ultimately positioned themselves as third in the Liberty Division, enough to qualify for the PAC Final Six tournament.

Energized by a home crowd in each of their conference tournament games (as the tournament was played in the Spring-Ford gymnasium), the Rams showed what this young group was capable of with: a big win against Upper Perk in round one, an upset over top-seeded Methacton in the semifinals, and finally a 43-36 championship victory over Perkiomen Valley to take home their fifth-straight PAC title.

Momentum carried through the District 1-6A Tournament as well, where the 11th-seeded Rams first hosted and defeated CB East, then upset sixth-seeded Rustin on the road, and came back home to take down Garnet Valley. In the District semifinals, the Rams visited second-seeded Souderton, in which they won a scrappy, 36-24 contest to send them to Temple University to face Plymouth Whitemarsh in the finals, a rematch of the previous year’s championship game.

PW — the eventual state champion — was certainly a more experienced, well-rounded team, so the Colonials handled the Rams 49-31 in the championship.

More basketball was yet to come however, as the Rams opened State Tournament competition with back-to-back wins over Nazareth and Central York. Unfortunately, the Rams’ magical run ended in the State Elite Eight, where, despite coming back to force overtime, Central Dauphin capitalized off a game-clinching run to win over the Rams, 47-41.

The loss marked the end of the career for the team’s lone senior, Kam Pufko, who enjoyed a very accomplished career that included winning PACs in all four of her years as a Ram. Pufko, while not a leading scorer, was a crucial component to the team’s success this year as the ultimate “glue” player — her leadership, passing, rebounding, defense, and charge-taking ability has helped propel this team to their position this year.

The bar has now been set high for the Rams next year — by returning all players except for Pufko, next year’s team should build on this year’s success.

Azzara and Pettinelli both earned first-team All-Liberty this year in the PAC, and Tiffan and Miller were second-team All-Liberty selections, so with this group of four, Aaliyah Solliday, and current junior center Megan Robbins, next year should be nothing but eventful.