Saturday, March 3, 2012
Spring-Ford Girls Are District One AAAA Champs
Villanova University was the site of the District One AAAA girls basketball championship pitting North Penn against Spring Ford.
But first, I had to make it to the Pavilion in a Friday night rush hour traffic jam, driving through the re-engineered bottleneck that replaced the old bottleneck where Rt. 202 merges onto the Schuylkill Expressway. I left early and sat in traffic but arrived with time to spare. Driving to an event can be half the effort that people don't think about.
I believe the Villanova field house is one of the best venues for a high school championship game. The floor is awesome, the crowd practically hovers over the court and for a photographer the lighting is perfect. The house was full when I looked around from my spot on media row. This is where I would transmit photos back to the Mercury for the Website and paper. I was also shooting for our sister paper The North Penn Reporter.
Up in the stands, I saw my neighbors Joe and Louise Greene waving to me. Joe is a current assistant coach for Pottsgrove High's girls basketball team. He is also a die-hard fan. Their daughter Katie and my daughter Jan played basketball for a Pottsgrove team coached by Jan Fritz. Of course me being biased, that team is my all-time favorite and they used to battle Spring-Ford coach Jeff Rinehimer's team when they played. His assistant coach Micky McDaniel's daughter was on that team and was a good player. A childhood friend of mine Jeff Mast is another assistant coach for the Rams. We always chat a bit before the start of the games if I get there early.
But this current crop of Spring-Ford Rams is probably the best girls team, running the toughest, tightest defense out there. They can trot at least nine players onto the floor whenever they need a spark or someone needs a breather. Any given day a different player will step up. The big word for this group is unselfish.
I don't see pouting when one is pulled off the floor. They sit and cheer for their teammates. As competitive as they are it's probably very hard to be back on the bench. Rinehimer runs them in and out wearing down opponents. The team is deep and gives them a distinct advantage.
After shooting the opening ceremony, I headed back to my spot on the floor when I heard my name shouted. Here was long-time friends Kevin and Dee Strange watching from the stands at mid-court. Kevin was an excellent multi-sport athlete in his day and continues to attend games and helped coach teams over the years. I gave them a quick wave as it was tip-off time and I needed to be court side.
It was a close contest for the first quarter and they matched points. Spring-Ford's Mariah Traywich, the niece of North Penn's head coach Maggie deMarteliere got an uncontested basket on the first play of the game. The score was even at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter defense by Spring-Ford proved to much for their opponent. The Ram's relentless pressure finally got to North Penn and they made bad passes and mistakes that cost them points. Spring-Ford had a comfortable lead at the half.
I fired up the laptop computer at halftime to transmit early action back to the office. The North Penn paper had a very early deadline and needed art asap. I worked on five game photos, tweeked, captioned and transmitted which took me into part of the third quarter. As the minutes ticked down in the third quarter, I was okay as the first half gave me enough good pictures to cover anything both papers would need.
By the time I got back on the floor Spring Ford had opened up an eleven point lead. The Rams kept the pressure on. As the time wore down I started looking for emotional photos on the sidelines. Snapping pictures of coach Rinehimer, he kept his own intensity up too, never cracking a smile.
There wasn't any relief for the players until the final buzzer and I followed them by camera lens as they hugged and celebrated their district championship. But I also snapped away at the North Penn girls who were quietly suffering their loss. A class act even in defeat.
Once the hoopla settled down it was back to the computer as fans filed out of the arena. I was far from done. I scrambled to get North Penn an agony of defeat shot right away so they could possibly stuff it into the next days paper before their deadline. I had more time for the Mercury and transmitted several post game shots showing cheers and happy smiles.
A sports writer court side asked why I didn't head back to the media room and the quiet to send my photos. I had to be honest with him saying I wanted to watch some of the Lower Merion vs Chester boys final for a few minutes as I packed up my gear. They didn't disappoint either. On the first play Lower Merion was on a breakaway and slam dunked the opening shot. Chester returned the favor as they got the ball and jammed for their first points. The crowd was getting their money's worth.
As I walked from the court to the lobby I looked at a mural on the wall of former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino and his charges after they won the NCAA national championship thinking how good area hoops teams are from high school through college.
Spring-Ford girls have a change to make more history of their own. This team has a good shot to go deep in the PIAA state championship. We'll see how the ball bounces.