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District 1 6A: Spring-Ford stifles Souderton, sees semifinal success

03/02/2022, 10:00pm EST
By Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)

FRANCONIA — Again and again, a Souderton player would wade into the sea of navy and gold waiting for it to part only to be spit out by an angry wave wrapping arms around a rebound.

Throughout the season, Spring-Ford has made a name for itself with its fearless, no-reward with no-risk style of offense and has foiled many a foe with a tsunami of threes, layups and various other means of point production. In recent weeks, there's been another side to the Rams, the No. 11 seed in the District 1 6A semifinals, one not as flashy or stylistic as a no-conscience, step-back three that catches all net on the way down and a big roar from the player who just shot it backpedaling up the court, but no less important.


Mickey McDaniel (above) has Spring-Ford right back in the District 1 6A Championship game. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

See, this Spring-Ford team can also defend and that angry sea of blue and gold did its part Wednesday night in stifling No. 2 Souderton in a 36-24 district semifinal win.

"I think when people first see us, they see a team where everyone can contribute on offense," sophomore guard Mac Pettinelli said. "Coach (Mickey) McDaniel focuses so much on defense and pressure but also tells us there's no fear of failure, don't be scared to play up a little bit or get in their face.

"People undermine that defense can win games, even if your offense isn't going strong."

Spring-Ford's offense wasn't going strong much of Wednesday, not with Souderton's Casey Harter all but putting Anna Azzara in prison for a half and Pettinelli left out in the cold after a quick start in the first quarter. That part wasn't unexpected, with Pettinelli saying she and her teammates were walking into the Indians' gym expecting to bury them under a hail of long range shooting or put a big point total up.

What was a little more unexpected, at least on the host's side, was the way the Rams returned the favor on defense, with Azzara keeping Harter in the same jail cell most of the night and Spring-Ford able to stay in its man defense, with plenty of help when needed. Watching the tape in preparation, Souderton coach Lynn Carroll saw a good team, but not necessarily one that was going to hold her side to two total points in the second and third quarters.

"A lot of the film I watched, I thought offensively if we ran our stuff, we were going to be ok," Carroll said. "They threw a little wrinkle in their man defense and it completely got us out of any kind of rhythm, they defended Casey extremely well and really, for four quarters we were not patient enough on offense. Down the stretch, you start to shoot with too much urgency and it was like the more we missed, the more we were going to keep missing.

"Defensively, I was very happy with how we played for the most part. It came down to (Megan) Robbins hurting us in the third and fourth quarter and not playing around how they were playing defense."


Megan Robbins (above, in Feb.) led Spring-Ford with 10 points in the semifinal win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Aside from 6-foot-2 junior Megan Robbins, who was excellent with a game-high 10 points off the bench and a defensive presence in the paint, the Rams don't have a ton of size but they're quick, feisty and competitors. Take 5-foot-6 guard Aaliyah Solliday, the other half of the bench punch that helped turn things around for Spring-Ford, who had a team-best nine rebounds as a reserve.

"We get a hand in their face," Solliday said. "We talk. We help and we make sure we're always moving toward the ball."

Wednesday was not the first time this postseason the Rams have made a stand defensively. In the PAC title game, they clamped down on Perk Valley in the fourth quarter and just a round ago against Garnet Valley in the quarterfinals, locked up the Jaguars en route to a second-half comeback.

It wasn't anything fancy against Souderton, just holding their ground and routinely forcing the Indians into difficult or rushed shots over and over. Keeping the paint flooded with blue jerseys also helped, with any Souderton drive met by two or three defenders and substantially upping the difficulty of said shots.

"Communication is the key for our team," Robbins said. "That's what wins our games."

Souderton took an 11-7 lead on a three by Erin Bohmueller with 1:07 left in the opening quarter. The hosts would lead13-8 at the end of the frame but that shot would prove significant as it was Souderton's last field goal until Harter broke free with a steal into an and-one with 2:40 to play in the fourth, a span of nearly 23 minutes of game time.

In between, Solliday sparked an 8-0 run to close the half, assisting a transition layup in the middle of two banked-in 3-pointers with the second beating the halftime horn for a 16-15 lead. Robbins took over from there, scoring seven straight to end the third and three straight to open the fourth to put Spring-Ford ahead 30-17 and into clock-killing mode.

"This was one of those nights where it was a really good game for her and she took advantage of what was there," McDaniel said. "You gotta give her a lot of credit, not just offensively but she did a terrific job on the defensive end."

Spring-Ford's defense will have its work cut out for it again Saturday facing No. 1 seed and unbeaten Plymouth Whitemarsh in a rematch of the 2021 title game won by the Rams.

A defense is only as good as the players executing it and that's where McDaniel wanted to deflect most of the credit. He also lauded his assistants for their game plan and idea of using the help out of the man defense, but it was ultimately up to the players to make it work.

On Wednesday, they did. Their reward?

"Temple," Robbins said.

"Temple," Solliday echoed.

"Temple, baby," Pettinelli finished.

By Quarter
Spring-Ford: 8   |   8   |  11  |   9   ||  36
Souderton:  13  |   1   |   1   |   9   ||  24

Scoring
SF: Megan Robbins 10, Aaliyah Solliday 9, Mac Pettinelli 7, Anna Azzara 6, Katie Tiffan 4

S: Erin Bohmueller 8, Casey Harter 5, Grace McDonough 5, Teya McConnaha 2, Brooke Fenchel 2, Mikayla McGillian 2


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