POTTSTOWN — When Spring-Ford needed some points in Friday night's Pioneer Athletic Conference boys basketball semifinal, Gary Hopkins was the man who got the ball. The 6-foot-4 senior poured in 22 points while shooting 9-for-10 from the field and the Rams advanced to the final with a back-and-forth 62-48 win over Pottsgrove at Pottstown's Strom Gymnasium.
Nick Stanek added 13 points for Liberty Division champion Spring-Ford (14-0, 20-2) which will meet Methacton — a 58-41 winner over Pope John Paul II — back in Pottstown on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Mike Fowler scored 18 and Mike Graves nine for the Frontier Division runner-up Falcons (8-6, 9-13).
Spring-Ford never trailed in the first quarter, but led by just a 12-10 score by the end of the period and by a 14-12 count a minute into the second. Then the rollercoaster ride began as the Rams built a big lead in a hurry and then lost most of it almost as quickly.
Spring-Ford went on an eight-point run as Hopkins made a free throw, Stanek scored off an inbounds pass from Drew Kakareka, Phillips scored on a drive, and Stanek popped in a 3-pointer from the right corner for a 22-12 advantage.
Then after Tyrone Jeffcoat-Parker stopped the string of points with a free throw midway through the quarter, Hopkins swished a baseline jumper and nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing. An offensive rebound basket by Hopkins — who scored 10 points in the period — completed a 17-3 run for a 31-15 Ram lead.
"We knew we had a little bit of a mismatch when Gary is on the floor,' said Spring-Ford coach Chris Talley. "We just tried to take advantage of getting him in some good situations to score, and Gary did the rest. He's come on strong in the second half of the season, and we want to just keep on pounding it into him.'
"I just kept on shooting it and they were going in,' said Hopkins. "I had a little rhythm in the second quarter and I kept on shooting and I had confidence the whole game.'
Deyon Doctor and Hopkins exchanged short-range jumpers to make it 33-17 before Marquise Barefield scored on a drive and made a free throw and Fowler swished a jumper to make it 33-20 at the half.
Then the Falcons picked up the defensive intensity right after the break and got right back into the game while putting nine more points in a row on the board. A 3-point bomb from the left corner by Graves and a fast break basket by Fowler off a feed from Jeffcoat-Parker made it 33-28, and another trey by Graves cut the lead to 33-31, completing a 14-point run by the Falcons. During that time, the Rams turned the ball over six times and missed their only two shot attempts.
The Spring-Ford edge was at 45-42 early in the fourth quarter when the Rams put together a second — and this time decisive — run. And again it was sparked by Hopkins, who scored on a jumper and a layup. Then Stanek followed with a basket off an offensive board and a tip-in by Phillips increased the margin to 53-42 with 4 ½ minutes to go. Spring-Ford shot 7-for-8 from the line the rest of the way to nail down the win.
"They didn't hang their heads and they came out strong in the third quarter,' Falcon coach Scott Palladino said concerning his players. "I think we weren't running our offense. A couple times, players did some things on their own and we got out of our offense.
"We gave Spring-Ford everything they could handle for 3½ quarters and it fell apart the last four, five minutes. Turnovers killed us.'