Over the better part of the past four years, Spring-Ford's Sammy Stipa has continually stated her case, so to speak, for being one of the top female athletes to grace the area high school sports landscape.
After having helped fuel her respective Rams teams (basketball and soccer) to three different trips to a PIAA championship game in a span of a year, Stipa's impact wasn't lost on the rest of the state as well.
For the second straight season, Stipa has been named to the Pennsylvania Sportswriters Girls Basketball All-State Class AAAA first team.
A dynamic 5-foot-5 guard, Stipa averaged a team-high 13.6 points for the Rams, who won their third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference, reached the District 1-AAAA final for the third straight season and advanced to the PIAA final for the second consecutive year.
What's more, she did it while battling multiple injuries virtually the entire season — most notably a meniscus tear in her left knee that will result in surgery scheduled for Wednesday.
"It's a great accomplishment and honor,' said Stipa, who will play at Lafayette next season.
Though Stipa was far from 100 percent physically, her mental toughness and gritty competitive demeanor remained in overdrive as the Rams rallied from a lackluster late regular season to stage a memorable playoff run.
With Spring-Ford trailing by 17 in the closing seconds of the third quarter of its District 1 second-round game against Penn Wood, it was Stipa who drained back-to-back 3-pointers to kickstart a 32-point outburst by the Rams over the final 8:10 that helped them escape with a 55-49 victory.
In a 53-52 district quarterfinal victory over Central Bucks West, Stipa contributed a team-high 20 points, including the go-ahead foul shots in the final 30 seconds.
Then, in a 34-33 win over Mount St. Joseph in the district semis, Stipa drained the go-ahead jumper with 3:22 left in the game.
She continued the clutch play in the state tourney, delivering team-highs of 16 points and five steals while sparking a fourth quarter comeback in a 51-45 first-round victory over Red Lion, then scoring a team-high 14 points — highlighted by a go-ahead seven-point barrage of three straight cold-blooded jumpers — in a 42-35 second-round over Mechanicsburg. And in a 47-32 semifinal victory over North Allegheny, Stipa led the way with a team-high 14 points.
"Sammy was the heart and soul of our team,' Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel said. "She leads by example every day in the locker room, in practice and in games. She knows no other gear than full throttle and has a competitive fire about her that is unparalleled.'
After helping the Rams bring home their first state title in last year's 60-45 Class AAAA girls basketball championship victory over Cumberland Valley, Stipa — an All-Area first team standout in girls soccer — was prominent on that Rams team's march to the PIAA Class AAA final. And this winter season, she racked up her third trip to Hershey for a PIAA gold-medal game.
"The thing I'll remember most about my senior year was the fact that I got to two state championships, soccer and basketball, which is a cool thing,' Stipa said. "Not many people can say they ever got to play in one, let alone two. And now after this year, I got to three of them. It definitely made my senior year an awesome experience.'
Stipa finished her career with a school-record 1,366 points, 21st in area history. She also averaged 3.2 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.1 assists for the Rams, while heading a phenomenal senior class that closed out with a 109-19 career mark.
"Sammy is a true team player,' McDaniel said. "In her make-up, even with all the awards and recognition she has earned, the team is still larger than the individual and this is why she is such a valuable leader.'
Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias was named Class AAAA Player of the Year in a tight race that also included Cardinal O'Hara's Mia Farmer and Stipa. Pocono Mountain West's Jackie Benitez, Cumberland Valley's Kelly Jekot, Mount St. Joseph Academy's Alex Louin and C.B. West's Nicole Munger rounded out the Class AAAA first team. Bill Wolf of Cumberland Valley — which defeated Spring-Ford 47-30 in the state championship — was named Class AAAA Coach of the Year.
The Class AAAA second team consisted of Mechanicsburg's Cecily Carl, Bayard Rustin's Adashia Franklyn, Dover's Alayah Hall, State College's Kyla Irwin, Penn Trafford's Maria Palarino and Cumberland Valley's Maddie Torresin, with the third team being composed of Pennsbury's Sajanna Bethea, Wilson's Carley Brew and Avery Marz, Allderdice's Sierra Fordham, Altoona's Darby Lee, Chentenham's Ashley Jones and North Penn's Vicky Tumasz.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.