Jason Guarente (@JasonGuarente)
Everything about Kamryn Pufko defies logic. She shouldn’t be a force in the paint. She shouldn’t be able to defend 6-foot rivals.
Spring-Ford’s senior is a 5-foot-5 triumph of determination. A makeshift forward living in a guard’s body.
“I’ve been a guard my whole life,” Pufko said. “Once I got to ninth grade they needed a big. If I wanted to play, I had to step up and do that. It was hard at first. I just learned to adapt and make the hustle plays.”
Kamryn Pufko (above, in Feb.) was a defensive menace against Central York's star Mackenzie Wright-Rawls. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Pufko’s defensive effort was vital in helping Spring-Ford hold off Central York 39-31 in the PIAA Class 6A girls basketball second round at Garden Spot Friday night.
Spring Ford (22-6), the District 1 runner-up, advanced to face Central Dauphin in the quarterfinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Pufko isn’t just the shortest player in the Rams’ starting lineup. She’s the second shortest player on the roster. It never looks that way during games.
This matchup was a dilemma for Spring-Ford. At least on paper. The Rams had no one to guard Central York’s Mackenzie Wright-Rawls, a dynamic 6-0 junior. That assignment was put on Pufko’s shoulders.
Wright-Rawls managed seven points on 3-for-12 shooting. Only one of her baskets came with Pufko on the floor and that was through an offensive rebound.
Wright-Rawls is a Division I recruit who plays on the wing and slashes to the hoop. She’s a handful. Pufko, whose No. 1 sport is soccer, parked herself in the lane and kept Wright-Rawls from finishing.
“The thing about Kam is she is so smart,” Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel said. “She has a tremendous basketball IQ for someone who doesn’t play it 24-7. We go over things and she’s like, ‘Coach, I got it all.’ That’s how she is at practice.”
Pufko drew one charge and could have drawn two more. She took an elbow to the stomach that knocked the wind out of her and another elbow to the face. She’s the first player to dive on the floor for loose balls.
The senior had a red mark wrapped around her right eye. That wasn’t even from this game.
“This is just a scar from a few days ago,” Pufko said. “I usually get beat up.”
Central York (22-7) missed its first 10 shots and trailed 15-1 before it saw a field goal swish through the net. The Panthers were never closer than six points after that slow start.
Spring-Ford has four sophomores in its lineup: Anna Azzara, Siena Miller, Katie Tiffan and Mac Pettinelli. Those girls are going to walk through history together. This won’t be the first time they reach the PIAA quarterfinals.
Azzara, the point guard, had a team-high 14 points. Pettinelli scored seven points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Tiffan scored seven points in the first quarter and finished with nine.
While the sophomores are creating their own identity, Pufko is the only senior who connects the team that reached the state final last year, led by Villanova freshman and Big East All-Rookie selection Lucy Olsen, and this group.
“She’s a great team leader,” Azzara said. “She’s always picking everyone up. She’s always telling everyone what we need to do, what we need to work on in a positive way. She’s always helping everyone’s attitude.”
Pufko downplays her leadership. She calls it a group effort. There’s no denying her ability to set an example. No one plays harder. No one throws her body around more.
Every time Wright-Rawls tried to make a move in the paint, it seemed like Pufko was in the way.
“She understands the nuances of the game,” McDaniel said. “She can kind of see one or two passes ahead. What may happen here. She does the scouting report to a T. She just battles.”
While everyone is understandably excited about Spring-Ford’s future, the Rams are in the quarterfinals now. They have an exciting opportunity in front of them.
“We’re having a ton of fun,” Azzara said. “We don’t want it to end. We just like to live in the moment and not worry about what’s to come later.”
This is Pufko’s last run. She wants to take it as far as she can. Even if it means getting a few scars along the way.
Central York: 1 | 9 | 10 | 11 || 31
Spring-Ford: 9 | 9 | 12 | 9 || 39
Central York: Bella Chimienti 15, Wright-Rawls 7, Irelynd Long 5, Karli Bacha 4.
Spring-Ford: Anna Azzara 14, Katie Tiffan 9, Mac Pettinelli 7, Kamryn Pufko 6, Megan Robbins 2, Aaliyah Solliday 1
Tag(s): Home Boys HS Pac-10 (B) PAC-10 Liberty (B) Spring-Ford High School Women's Jason Guarente