VILLANOVA — The Spring-Ford girls basketball team spent a majority of the District 1-AAAA Tournament living dangerously.
Friday night, the Rams' high-wire act finally ran out of magic.
Spring-Ford, which staged dramatic comebacks in each of its three previous tourney wins, had no answer for hot-shooting North Penn in a 63-51 loss in the District 1 final at The Pavilion.
Senior guard Vicky Tumasz torched the nets for a game-high 27 points and the third seed Maidens (24-3) became just the second team to crack the 60-point barrier this season against the fourth seed Rams (23-6).
Sammy Stipa scored a team-high 19 points for defending PIAA champion Spring-Ford, which saw its bid for a third straight District 1 crown fall short and had an 14-game tourney winning streak snapped.
North Penn nailed seven 3-pointers (three each by Tumasz and promising freshman backcourt running mate Sam Carangi) and wound up 17-for-39 (44 percent) from the field against a Rams defense that had been allowing an average of just 34.0 points per game.
"Their shooting was crazy from the outside,' said Spring-Ford senior forward Shelby Mueller, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. "They hit them when they needed to, and it kind of buried us and we couldn't recover.'
"Proximity on defense was one of our keys,' Rams coach Mickey McDaniel said. "We wanted to get out and defend them, but there were times when they worked the ball and they were wide open, then there were other times we were right in their face and they buried them.'
The game began promising enough for Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Spring-Ford, which opened a 6-3 lead on Julia Roshelli's baseline jumper with 5:10 left in the first quarter.
But the Shippensburg-bound Tumasz finished a full-court inbounds pass from Erin Maher to begin a 10-point tear to close out the period for the Knights.
Spring-Ford, which also got 12 points and eight rebounds from Maggie Locke, appeared to seize the momentum back with an 11-3 second-quarter run culminating in Locke's basket off a Mueller assist that put the Rams up 17-16.
Once again, though, North Penn answered in a big way — this time with a 16-4 run over the final 3:33 of the half bookended by Carangi's pull-up jumper and long 3-pointer that gave the Maidens a 32-21 lead.
"We tried to spread things out a little bit and attack the basket, and I thought our kids did a good job,' North Penn coach Maggie deMarteleire said. "It seemed like whenever Vicky and Sam were open, we were able to get it to them.'
That trend continued in the third quarter, when Tumasz turned the contest into her own personal game of H.O.R.S.E. by scoring her team's first 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
"Vicky Tumasz played her tail off,' deMarteleire said. "She got a lot of steals on defense (a team-high four) and she was hitting big buckets on offense. She's just mentally tough.'
The Maidens — who also got 12 points and huge minutes from reserve Irisa Ye, 11 points from Carangi and 10 points and eight boards from Maher — extended the lead to 14 points twice, the latter on Bri Cullen's two foul shots that made it 51-37 with 4:55 left.
Though the Rams chiseled away from there, they could only get as close as 55-49 on Mueller's inside basket with 1:11 left before North Penn sealed the deal from the foul line.
"We kept talking about how they (the Rams) were down to Penn Wood by 17, how they were losing to (C.B.) West and how they were losing to Mount St. Joseph (Academy) and came back to win,' deMarteleiere said. "We knew we had to stay focused and make sure we didn't get rattled when they made their run.'
"It's a great feeling,' said Tumasz, who was on the court two years ago when Spring-Ford defeated North Penn 46-33 for the district title. "We knew they were back-to-back district champs, and we knew it was going to be a battle. I wouldn't say we outhustled them, but I'd say our hustling was similar to theirs and we worked together really well.'
The Rams, on the other hand, finally got burned after playing with fire one too many times.
"We have to regroup,' said McDaniel, whose squad opens PIAA tourney play Friday against District 3 No. 5 seed Red Lion. "I have to sit back and analyze tonight; we have to figure out what happened. We played from behind the last three games, and sometimes it just runs out.
"I thought once we got the lead (in the second quarter), we could control the game, but they just didn't let us do it. Listen, they proved tonight why they are the District 1 champions.'
Spring-Ford, which got five rebounds from Stipa and four boards from Emily Walker, had a 35-22 advantage on the glass. ... North Penn's Mikaela Giuliani and Spring-Ford's Abby Beyer each fouled out. ... Maher had a game-high four assists. ... The game was a homecoming of sorts for Spring-Ford assistant Stacie Witman, a Plymouth-Whitemarsh grad who played at Villanova and averaged 14.1 points during her senior year in 2007-08. ... Speaking of Villanova, Carangi is the daughter of former Wildcats player Jen (Snell) Carangi. ... North Penn will open the PIAA tourney Friday against District 3 No. 7 seed Lebanon.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.