Spring-Ford career scoring leader Sammy Stipa is flanked by former Rams greats and 1,000-point scores Megan Bedard, left, and Allie Kakareka, right, prior
Spring-Ford career scoring leader Sammy Stipa is flanked by former Rams greats and 1,000-point scores Megan Bedard, left, and Allie Kakareka, right, prior to Tuesday's District 1-AAAA second round game against Penn Wood.

The Pope John Paul II girls basketball team zoomed through a highly successful Pioneer Athletic Conference regular season like a Porsche through a string of green lights.

Over the past couple of weeks, though, the traffic has become a bit more congested for the Golden Panthers, as they've had to deal with adversity.

Despite losing starting senior forward and team leader Ellen Chernaskey for the season with a heart issue, and despite seeing prolific junior guard Susan Bossler slowed by a shin injury in Friday's District 1-AAA quarterfinal against Gwynedd Mercy Academy, PJP still managed to gut out a 39-35 victory.

Sophomore Gabby Troisi took center stage with a team-high 14-point effort and he second-seeded Golden Panthers (18-4) moved on to Tuesday's semifinal against third seed Villa Maria, set for Wissahickon at 6 p.m.

Pope John Paul II forward Gabby Troisi, left, drives against Gwynedd Mercy sophomore forward Erica DeCandido during their District 1-AAA girls basketball
Pope John Paul II forward Gabby Troisi, left, drives against Gwynedd Mercy sophomore forward Erica DeCandido during their District 1-AAA girls basketball playoff game Friday. (Rick Kauffman/21st Century Media) (Rick Kauffman)

"She was amazing,' Baker said of Troisi. "Rebounding, going left or right. And she's only a sophomore. That's the incredible part.'

Fellow sophomore Steph Petery also came up big with two clutch foul shots in the late going that extended a one-point lead to three for the Golden Panthers, who will be making their second straight trip to the district semis.

They also have plenty of motivation, according to Troisi.

"We want to do it for Ellen,' she said. "But I think we're also showing other teams we can still play without her.'

With the combination of Petery and Dahlia Wilson stepping into Chernaskey's position and Bossler hopeful to be back to top form, the Golden Panthers find themselves one win shy of a PIAA tourney berth, as well as a trip to the district final — though Baker knows it won't come easy.


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"They are a good basketball team,' Baker said of VMA. "They are very fundamentally sound and won't make any mistakes. We can't get outrebounded, and we've got to come to play on Tuesday.'

COMEBACK QUEENS

For most of the past three District 1-AAAA Tournaments, two-time defending champ Spring-Ford has played from ahead.

That sure wasn't the case last week, as the PAC-10 champion Rams had to stage two memorable rallies to keep their hopes of a third straight district title alive.

First, Spring-Ford had to storm back from 17 points down in Wednesday's 55-49 second round win over plucky Penn Wood. Then, the Rams had to pull another Houdini-like escape in Friday's 53-52 quarterfinal victory over talented Central Bucks West.

Against Penn Wood, the Rams used a 32-point explosion over the final 8:10 and got a go-ahead jumper from Maggie Locke with 51 seconds left.

Against C.B. West, the Rams trailed by seven at the half and four midway through the final frame before going up to stay on two foul shots by Sammy Stipa in the final minute and surviving a potential game-winning jumper by Michigan-bound Bucks star Nicole Munger at the buzzer.

Defending PIAA champion Spring-Ford (22-5), the fourth seed, now takes on top seed Mount St. Joseph Academy (24-2) Wednesday at Harriton at 7:30 p.m. in a highly-anticipated semifinal showdown. The Magic defeated the Rams 39-34 Jan. 11 in the Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic at Philadelphia University.

WARRIOR SPIRIT

Tejarra Ellis didn't start Methacton's District 1-AAAA tourney playback game against Penn Wood Saturday. But the 5-foot-7 junior sure knew how to finish it.

Ellis wound up delivering a season-high 16 points and nine rebounds to help the Warriors rally from a five-point fourth quarter deficit and outlast the Patriots 53-51 in overtime.

Speaking of Methacton (19-8), which plays host to Souderton in a PIAA state qualifer Wednesday at 7 p.m., senior center Jenna Carroll is 13 points shy of 1,000 for her career.

Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter @MercSmokinD