Tre Medearis (above) had a career day as Spring-Ford advanced to the Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinals. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
ROYERSFORD –– With Spring-Ford clinging to a two-point lead over Upper Merion in the final minute of a Pioneer Athletic Conference opening-round playoff game, head coach Chris Talley had a simple rule for his Rams: hold the ball until they foul, unless you have a wide-open layup.
Tre Medearis did Talley one better. The Spring-Ford senior took a slip pass from classmate Pat Kovaleski, took two steps and rose up, throwing down an emphatic left-handed dunk over a Vikings’ defender as the whistle blew. Medearis knocked down the foul shot as well, capping off a career game as Spring-Ford held off Upper Merion, 48-46, to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
“It was a layup-only [situation],” Talley said. “That layup, we’ll take that.”
“That kid and me, we had a little bit of history,” Medearis explained, “so I saw a chance to dunk on him, I couldn’t pass it up.”
Spring-Ford, the No. 3 seed in the PAC after going 15-7 (7-3 PAC Liberty) during the regular season, will face No. 2 seed and Frontier division champion Pope John Paul II at 6 PM in Friday night’s semifinals. As this year’s hosts, the Rams have a built-in home-court advantage, but Wednesday night’s crowd was fairly neutral for both contests.
Medearis got rolling in the second quarter, scoring 10 of his game-high 24 points in those eight minutes after a scoreless opening stanza that saw Spring-Ford score only four points. The 6-foot-4 senior forward, who missed last year’s postseason due to a sprained ankle suffered late in the season, set a new career mark with those two dozen points, which he amassed by going 10-of-15 from the floor along with 4-of-6 from the line. He also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out two assists.
“I didn’t think they had anyone who could stop me, so I just kept going into the paint,” he said. “At first I was a little bit nervous, but when I realized we were missing our big-time point guard, [Jack] Skrocki, I knew I had to step up.”
Spring-Ford senior Pat Kovaleski had 6 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Skrocki, a junior guard and the Rams’ typical starter at point guard, was out with the flu. Talley said he was hoping to have Skrocki back as soon as possible, but that’ll all obviously depend upon his health.
“He’s a fighter, man,” Talley said. “He’s the type of kid that, if he’s missing the game, you know it’s real. If there’s a will and there’s somebody that can pull it off, it’s going to be Skrocki.”
Senior guard Tyler Scilingo, inserted into the Rams’ lineup in Skrocki’s absence, hit a key triple to put Spring-Ford up 44-40 with less than two minutes to play. That came after Upper Merion (11-11, 6-4) battled back from 11 down early in the third quarter to force a 39-39 tie, threatening to pull the upset.
Spring-Ford knew Upper Merion was plenty capable: on Jan. 23, the Vikings came to visit and walked out with an 80-77 overtime win over the Rams, the most points anybody’s scored on Spring-Ford this season.
“We couldn’t let them get second-chance threes, because that’s what happened the first time we played them and they made us pay for it,” Medearis said.
Upper Merion: 6 | 9 | 15 | 16 | 46
Spring-Ford: 4 | 16 | 15 | 13 | 48
Upper Merion: 16-37 FG, 7-15 3PT, 7-11 FT
Spring-Ford: 19-48 FG, 3-17 3PT, 7-11 FT
Upper Merion: Bowman 12, Shepperd 11, Kim 8, Jones 8, Clark 3
Spring-Ford: Medearis 24, Scilingo 7, Kovaleski 6, Kressley 6, Santiago 5
Clay Kopko (above) had a key bucket and took a charge to ensure Phoenixville advanced. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Game Two: 4) Phoenixville vs. 5) Boyertown
In a rock fight of a second half, Phoenixville and Boyertown’s first-round match-up was bound to come down to a defensive play instead of a bucket.
Phoenixville senior Clay Kopko provided both.
First, the 6-0 senior gathered in a feed from sophomore Chris Weiah, depositing his a layup to put the Phantoms up two points in the final minute of regulation. On the other end, Kopko stepped in front of a driving Aarick Salata, taking the charge on the Bears’ junior guard and helping seal a 45-41 win.
“We do all these charge drills in practice,” Kopko said, “and if that was the one charge I didn’t take, I don’t know if I could live with myself.”
“As soon as I saw that drive, and I saw Clay there, I knew it was going to happen,” head coach Eric Burnett said after the Phantoms won a PAC game for the first time in his six years. “I didn’t even think about it, I knew that was the play. I’ve seen him do that so many times over his career.
“We give out Gatorades for a charge, but I think I’m going to have to give him a case of Gatorades or something. I owe him a lot more Gatorades, I know that.”
Kopko, a defensive specialist not usually known for his scoring abilities, tied for the game-high with 11 points along with senior guard Steven Hamilton, who was largely bottled up by a Boyertown squad with a significant height advantage on the Phantoms.
The Bears (16-7) led 29-23 after a 20-point second quarter, with Salata (7 points/7 rebounds/7 assists/4 steals) getting into the lane and finding junior big man Chris Kiefer (6 points/7 rebounds) and a few of the team’s shooters. The lead was 39-34 after three quarters, but Phoenixville (14-9) clamped down on defense, holding Boyertown to just two points in the final frame.
Eric Burnett (above) picked up his first PAC playoff win in four tries. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“We were running all different defenses, but we knew communication was the biggest thing, like switches, help [defense],” Kopko said. “Because we’re a smaller team (compared to) Boyertown, so help on post entries and stuff like that; we needed to be perfect, play a perfect defensive game.”
Kopko certainly knows his defense, as he’ll be playing soccer at West Chester next year as a defender. Used to having to survey the entire soccer field, keeping an eye on the 94-by-50 of a basketball court comes easily to Kopko.
“In soccer...you’ve got to direct the offense and the midfield, it’s kind of the same playing down on the blocks and stuff, I see most of the court,” he said.
Phoenixville gets to take on the best the PAC has to offer in the semifinals: Methacton (20-2). The conference’s top seed boasts Colgate-bound center Jeff Woodward and three other senior starters, and they’re one of the favorites for not only the District 1 6A tournament but even the PIAA Class 6A state tournament as well. The two teams met on Jan. 14, where the Warriors stifled the Phantoms, 64-20.
No matter what happens, Phoenixville will continue its season in the District 1 5A playoffs, which begin on Feb. 19. (Boyertown will also be playing in the 6A district playoffs, with a home game in the first round all but certain).
“Methacton’s a really good team and it’ll help us get ready for the opponents up there in our district, so it’ll be a good test,” Kopko said. “It’ll be a good test for us to see where we are, especially from the last time we played them, it’ll be a good test to see if we’ve grown from that game to this game.”
Boyertown: 9 | 20 | 10 | 2 | 41
Phoenixville 15 | 8 | 11 | 11 | 45
Boyertown: 14-51 FG, 6-24 3PT, 7-16 FT
Phoenixville: 17-39 FG, 4-13 3PT, 7-10 FT
Boyertown: Diguglielmo 10, Hummel 8, Marinello 7, Kiefer 6, Salata 6, Obarow 3
Phoenixville: Kopko 11, Hamilton 11, Memmo 8, Weiah 8, Allain 7