“It wasn't fun to watch,” admitted Locke, a 6-foot junior forward. “But it was a good learning experience. It was good to see how they (the Rams) are without being in the game.”
When the Rams and Warriors renewed acquaintances Wednesday night in the PAC-10 championship at Phoenixville, Locke was back on the court.
And her impact was unmistakable as Spring-Ford won its third straight league championship with a 47-35 victory over Liberty Division rival Methacton.
Locke turned in a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the defending District 1-AAAA and PIAA champion Rams (19-5), who avenged the aforementioned 47-43 loss to the Warriors.
After injuring her right elbow in a non-league loss to Wilson Jan. 18, Locke wound up missing five games (the Rams went 3-2 over that stretch) before returning to action in a 52-37 non-league win over last year's PIAA runner-up Cumberland Valley in the regular season finale.
“It's real big for us having Maggie back in the lineup,” Rams coach Mickey McDaniel said. “She adds so much to what we do. One, we can play bigger with her in the lineup. Two, she runs the floor terrific, she gets rebounds and she'll go to the basket.”
Locke did all of the above as Spring-Ford turned away Methacton for the third straight year in the title game.
With the Rams up 3-2 early on, she followed a miss to begin an eight-point spurt to close out the first quarter.
Locke was also prominent in the third quarter, contributing five points — including a three-point play — to help Spring-Ford extend a 20-8 lead to 38-16.
Though she does most of her damage inside, she also showed a deft outside touch by knocking down a jumper to open the fourth quarter as the Rams extended the lead to 25 before the Warriors had the better of it over the final six minutes to make the final margin somewhat respectable.
“Now (with Locke in the lineup) you have to worry about two bigs, (Shelby) Mueller and her,” Methacton coach Craig Kaminksi said. “Against our zone, the high-low works better for them because now we've got to try and defend two (inside threats). Defensively, she's a big presence in the middle that can block shots, so you start altering shots and shying away.”
Locke came off the bench last year and was more or less a promising role player until breaking through on the big stage with a seven-point, seven-rebound performance in the 60-45 win over Cumberland Valley in the state championship.
She's taken the proverbial next step this winter, averaging 8.2 points and providing a strong paint presence.
“I'm happy with myself, but I think I can still do much better and I just want to keep improving,” Locke said. “I really just try to go out there and focus on rebounding and defense.”
“You know what, she keeps getting better and better,” McDaniel said of Locke. “She really goes after it. She'll dive on the floor in games, and she'll dive on the floor in practice.
“Maggie's tremendously coachable. She looks you in the eye every time you talk to her, and she'll do whatever you ask her to do. Her future is bright. I can't say enough about Maggie Locke as far as how she's grown as a basketball player and as a person.”
“From last year to this year, she's definitely contributing way more and becoming more of a leader,” echoed Mueller.
And she's also handled adversity with the poise and maturity of a polished veteran.
“I was pretty upset when it first happened, but I just tried to take it in stride and be positive,” Locke said. “I was very excited to get back out there.
“We were confident coming in tonight. They're a strong team and we knew they were going to come back hard, but we really wanted this game.”
It showed, with senior leader Sammy Stipa putting together a 12-point, five rebound, four-assist performance; junior Abby Beyer scorching the nets from the perimeter en route to a 10-point effort; and Mueller contributing nine points while the Rams defense held Methacton to 3-for-21 shooting in the first half and limited the Warriors to a 27 percent showing for the game.
“After what happened two weeks ago,” said Kaminski, “I knew they were going to come at us at another level.”
Which is exactly what happened, as the Locke'd-and-loaded Rams earned a PAC-10 championship three-peat.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.