ROYERSFORD — For a second it looked as if Spring-Ford's comeback bid was thwarted.
After a nip-and-tuck affair, Sammy Stipa and Spring-Ford had rallied from a second half deficit in the second time in as many games, and clung on to a one-point advantage while Central Bucks West's Division I recruit Nicole Munger sprinted down court.
As Munger's jumper sailed off her fingertips as the clock ticked down to zero with the Rams holding a one-point lead, her shot was on a trajectory of dashing Spring-Ford's chances of repeating as District 1-AAAA champions.
At least it appeared to be from Sammy Stipa's and head coach Mickey McDaniel's perspective.
"I saw it go; I thought I saw the net go. I couldn't tell,' McDaniel, the first year Spring-Ford head coach, said. "I'm there ' Did that go in?''
"Abby (Beyer) gave me a hard time because I was like ' Wait, did that go in?'' Stipa chimed in.
Their perplexity was answered quickly.
"I looked at our crowd and they were cheering,' McDaniel said.
Munger's shot had the right angle, just not the lift, allowing Spring-Ford to exhale after coming back from a seven-point halftime deficit en route to a thrilling 53-52 victory over the Bucks in the third round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs on Friday night.
"Because of the schedule we've played over the number of years and what they've achieved, once the game ended we're going to turn around and get ready for the next game,' McDaniel, the first-year coach said.
Spring-Ford will play the winner of No. 1 Mount St. Joseph and No. 8 Bishop Shanahan on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Harriton High School. Villanova recruit Alex Louin and Mount St. Joseph, which Spring-Ford bested in the District 1-AAAA final last season, topped the Rams 39-34 on Jan. 11.
Stipa, who has been entrenched in every kind of storyline imaginable throughout her career, recorded a game-high 20 points in the win — none more important than numbers 19 and 20 where she found herself at the line with less than a minute remaining.
With the Rams trailing after two free throws from CB West's Mackenzie Carroll made it 52-51 with under a minute remaining, Stipa — the Lafayette recruit — charged her way to the basket before drawing contact and two free throws to give her team the lead.
"It's kind of my struggle a little bit, but I work on it,' Stipa said about free-throw shooting. "In practice we try to work on it a lot but I think the drills we do really help.'
Stipa, who has shot 50 percent from the line or better since her 1-for-7 effort in the team's 69-60 loss to Christ the King on Jan. 26, was perfect this time around as both of her shots hit nothing but net, giving her team a 53-52 lead with 30 seconds left.
"It's always pressure when you go to the line. I took it as if I was at practice,' Stipa said. "Our team was at the state finals last year so we're used to it.'
Abby Beyer drew a foul with 15 seconds remaining but her missed attempt on the front end of a one-and-one attempt set up Munger's missed jumper to end it.
Munger — a verbal commit to the University of Michigan who scored 18 points in the team's 59-47 victory over Methacton on Wednesday — was limited on the floor as she only made four field goals throughout the contest. However, her 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line (part of her team-high 16 points) gave CB West leads of 33-31 in the third and 44-42 midway through the fourth.
"We had five different people on her (Stipa, Julia Roshelli, Amy Roth, Molly Hynes, Abby Beyer),' McDaniel said. "I thought they all did a great job.
"Nicole Munger is just a solid basketball player. You're not a verbal (commit) to Michigan if you're not a solid basketball player.'
After Spring-Ford's Shelby Mueller paced the Rams with six points en route to a 7-2 first quarter lead, Munger (eight points) and Corrine Godshall (14 points) helped pace the Bucks to a pair of 8-0 runs in the first half to build the team's halftime lead to 29-22 — Spring-Ford's second consecutive game facing a halftime deficit.
"We just had to play more with our hearts,' Spring-Ford's Maggie Locke said regarding her team's halftime talk. "We thought we came out stronger this game. We let up for some reason (late in the first half).'
Locke and the Rams picked up the pace coming out of the half — storming out on a 5-0 run in the first minute and a half to tie it, before going toe-to-toe with the Bucks throughout the rest of the contest.
Locke and Beyer brought the crowd to its feet late as the two brought the team back from a 48-44 deficit midway through the fourth. After a Munger bucket brought the Bucks' lead to four, Beyer drained a wide open 3-pointer from the right elbow. After Stipa hit two from the line to tie it at 49, Locke scored her 10th point on a tough take to the basket, giving the Rams a 51-48 lead.
Since recording five 3-pointers in the team's loss to Christ the King, Beyer has recorded at least one 3-pointer in six of the team's last eight games.
"We have faith in Abby. She's been coming on since the Christ the King game with her perimeter shooting,' McDaniel said. "When she takes a three I have every confidence that it's going in. When it went up, I was following the trajectory; I thought ' that's got it.' I had all the confidence in the world when Abby let it go.'
The victory on Friday marks the second straight game the Rams have comeback from a second-half deficit.
"We don't want this to happen again,' Locke said.
Spring-Ford out-rebounded CB West 34-25, including 14 offensive rebounds. "We were getting to the offensive glass,' McDaniel said. "We saw that in film that we could get to the offensive glass on them. That's one of the things we wanted to do.' ... Shelby Mueller finished the game with 13 points. Carroll finished the game with 11 points for CB West — all of those points coming in the second half. Godshall finished the game with 14 points. ... Spring-Ford shot 15-for-19 from the line, its best performance from the stripe since it shot 19-for-24 in a victory over Perkiomen Valley on Jan. 31
C.B. West 16 13 9 14 - 52
Spring-Ford 16 6 14 17 - 53
C.B. West: Carroll 3 4-4 11, Traina 1 0-0 2, Mason 2 1-1 5, Godshall 7 0-0 14, Munger 4 8-8 16, Tillger 0 0-0 0, Moylan 0 0-0 0, Rakowsky 2 0-2 4, Totals 19 13-15 52.
Spring-Ford: Wagner 0 0-0 0, Dougherty 0 0-0 0, Mueller 5 3-4 13, Roshelli 1 1-2 3, Jones 0 0-0 0, Hynes 1 1-2 4, Stipa 6 6-6 20, Roth 0 0-0 0, Locke 2 4-4 8, Hart 0 0-0 0, Haney 0 0-0 0, Walker 0 0-0 0, Beyer 2 0-1 5, Totals 17 15-19 53.
3-point goals: Carroll, Stipa 2, Hynes, Beyer.