Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
EAGLEVILLE — Of all the things Nicole Timko has done in her time with Methacton, beating Spring-Ford has proven especially troublesome.
In three years with the Warriors, Timko had exactly one win over the Rams in eight tries, including two defeats in the PAC championship game and a pair of 20-point setbacks last year. To get win No. 2, Timko had the best scoring night of her career, blasting Spring-Ford for 36 points and assisting on 15 more as the Warriors took round one, 70-59, on Tuesday.
Nicole Timko (above, in 2019-20) had a strong game on both ends of the floor Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy Annie Pellicano)
Amassing points at a more productive rate than ever is a two-fold operation for Timko in her final season.
First, it helps her team win. Second, it gets her a little bit closer to the No. 1 slot on the program's all-time scoring list.
"It's obviously a goal, it'd be a great honor to end in that No. 1 spot, but overall I'm just trying to keep up my game and playing hard," Timko said.
Tuesday's game would make a perfect sample for all the 5-foot-9 guard does offensively. She handled the ball, passed the ball, moved off the ball, scored on cuts, off screens, off the dribble and did it at an almost mechanical efficiency. Scoring 36 points is a notable accomplishment on its own, but doing it on just 12 shots, as Timko did against Spring-Ford, is on another tier.
Timko hit 10-of-12 from the floor, including a 5-of-6 spell from behind the 3-point line and connected on 11-of-14 from the foul line while facing a little bit of every kind of defense Rams coach Mickey McDaniel could throw at her. If the opening shot of the game, a corner three, wasn't the sign, then a long-distance triple Timko hit to beat the first quarter buzzer certainly was the marker something special was coming.
"She's very good at reading the defense, but she can also read and react," McDaniel said. "She knows where the defense is when she's going off those screens and if they're trailing, that's the kind of game it's going to be. If we're trying to beat her to the spot, she's going to fade.
"She's a very heady player but she's also a very confident player to play the type of game she did and score the way she did."
Adding in Tuesday's efforts, Timko now sits at 1,395 career points and is averaging 21.4 ppg. She's firmly entrenched in the program's No. 2 all-time slot after taking it over on Saturday but still has a sizable summit to scale to catch 2008 graduate Renee Womack and her 1,682 career points.
At the family basketball net, at least, Timko can hold bragging rights. Both she and older brother Erik, now thriving at Jefferson, are members of Methacton's 1,000-point club, but Nicole has the clear edge over Erik's 1,092 career markers.
That the siblings play such a similar game and excel at so many of the same things isn't surprising.
"He's taught me a lot, especially now that he's playing in college," Timko said. "When he was home over the summer, he showed me a lot of the drills he's learned and our dad is always working with both of us."
With each passing year, Timko has taken on a little bit more and more. As a freshman, she had Abby Penjuke as a point guard and Sydney Tornetta as a top scorer to take some of the defense's attention away.
A year later, she and Tornetta were the one-two punch on a solid team before Timko took the helm last season with a relatively young supporting cast. Seemingly there at every step was Spring-Ford, the team with just a little more experience or just a little more firepower to keep getting in the way of a PAC league title or tournament championship.
It's a little different this year, with the Rams reloading around a strong sophomore class while Timko is the top dog of a tested team.
"Nicole is, in my book, the best player in the league this year," Warriors coach Craig Kaminski said. "It's her turn. She was behind (Lucy) Olsen last year but it's now her turn and she took the game over tonight."
The Warriors only accentuate their top scorers' strengths. If that sounds like another team that shares the same nickname as Methacton, maybe it's a coincidence or maybe it's for a reason.
Cassidy Kropp is a solid point guard who can relieve Timko of some ball-handling duties and shot creation. Mairi Smith is an athletic 6-foot-2 forward and willing screener who also can score inside and Tori Bockrath, as she showed Tuesday, is the right outlet valve for when defenses adjust.
Bockrath scored 19 points, knocking down five 3-pointers, with all five coming off assists from Timko. It wasn't a one-sided deal though, with Bockrath setting up Timko for a couple baskets including a great find off a cut for a crucial hoop in the fourth quarter.
On the flip side, when Spring-Ford came out of the half with extra defensive attention shaded Timko's way, she simply beat it by passing the ball back out to Bockrath to knock down three triples before canning one of her own with five seconds left for a 58-45 lead.
"It always keeps the defense guessing," Timko said. "We've learned to play with each other and also off of each other. We know where each other is going to cut or going to pop, so it's been a lot easier getting open shots."
Kaminski said Timko has improved in her four years with Methacton, but added the guard also came in with a highly adroit set of skills in the scoring department. Early on, it was evident she had an innate feel for creating looks both for herself and others and could read and use screens and off-ball movement as well as turn a defender's own tendencies against them.
Where the 20th-year Warriors coach has seen the most growth is in Timko's maturity. He called the senior a second coach on the floor and he and his assistants have given Timko - who also leads Methaction in made 3-pointers, assists and steals - a lot of freedom and authority because she's usually the first one to point out her own mistakes.
"Tonight, we had about 50 seconds to halftime and I wanted her to hold the ball until we had about 15 seconds. Instead she started the play early and it led to Spring-Ford getting a score," Kaminski said. "As we were walking down the hallway at halftime, she said, 'Coach Craig, that's on me, I know I messed up there.' That's a sign of the maturity that's developed."
Timko, who played with the Philly Belles AAU program this past summer, has committed to play at Christopher Newport University, one of the top Division III programs in the country. She had a couple other options, but CNU was always her top destination.
"They play a style I'm used to and enjoy playing," Timko said. "When I visited, I really connected with the team. I like the coaches and it's all-around a good fit."
She's only been to the state playoffs once and there's the specter of those losses in the PAC championship game still looming, so Tuesday was only a step toward what Timko hopes to get from her senior season. If somewhere along the way, she happens to overtake the top spot on the program's scoring chart, that'll just mean the Warriors are going the right direction.
"We have a lot of chemistry so even off the court, we want each other to succeed," Timko said. "Playing together for so long and going through all those wins and losses, we only have more motivation to win and experience what we haven't been able to yet."
METHACTON: 19 | 16 | 23 | 12 || 70
SPRING-FORD: 13 | 15 | 17 | 12 || 59
M: Nicole Timko 36, Tori Bockrath 19, Cassidy Kropp 11, Mairi Smith 4
SF: Anna Azzara 15, Aaliayh Solliday 13, Mac Pettinelli 8, Siena Miller 8, Katie Tiffan 6, Megan Robbins 4