Thursday, February 28, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Spring-Ford, Mount St. Joseph set for District 1-AAAA title clash

The Spring-Ford girls basketball team won the District 1-AAAA championship a year ago at Villanova. The Rams are poised to make it back-to-back titles when they meet Mt. St. Joseph tonight in the district final. (File photo by Barry Taglieber)

By Darryl Grumling

From the time the Spring-Ford girls basketball team began to annually take on Mount St. Joseph Academy seven years ago, it became a special rivalry virtually overnight.
In the 2006-07 season, the Rams came away with a hard-fought one-point victory. The following year, Mount St. Joe’s returned the favor by taking a triple-overtime thriller.
That’s been pretty much the case each time since the two squads have locked horns.
Tonight, the “magical” rivalry will add yet another chapter when top seed and defending champion Spring-Ford (26-2) meets second seed Mount St. Joseph Academy (25-2) for the District 1-AAAA championship at 7 p.m. at Villanova University.

(For complete story, click here ... )

GIRLS SWIMMING: Methacton 200 free relay makes states

Jen Rees was part of Methacton’s fifth-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay at the District 1 Swimming Championships Thursday at La Salle. The Warriors team of Rees, Nicole Young, Kristen Wang and Kiersten Groff earned an automatic bid to the PIAA Championships in the event. (File photo by Adrianna Hoff/JRC)

By Steven Moore

PHILADELPHIA — The most nerve-wracking moment for the Methacton girls swim team on Day 1 of the District 1 Swimming Championships Thursday came when they were standing on the deck, not swimming in the pool.
After some quick number-crunching and a massive cheer, four Warriors had secured state bids.
Methacton finished fifth in the day’s final event at La Salle University’s Kirk Pool — the Class AAA 200 freestyle relay — to secure an automatic bid to the PIAA Championships, slated for later this month at Bucknell University. Their time of 1:38.72 was good enough to clinch the only automatic state berth of the day for any PAC-10 girls swimmer or relay.

(For complete story, click here ... )

WRESTLING: Boyertown freshman Wood living up to the hype

Boyertown freshman Jordan Wood entered the season to a great deal of expectation, expectation that he’s lived up to en route to a 40-1 record and titles at the PAC-10 Championships and District 1-AAA West Tournament. (John Strickler/The Mercury)

By Don Seeley

There didn’t seem to be a wrestling soul anywhere in the area, or around the state for that matter, who hadn’t heard of Jordan Wood before he strolled into Boyertown’s practice room for the first time last November.
In other words, the 14-year-old freshman’s reputation preceded him… as did some rather lofty expectations, the result of his success in youth and junior high school wrestling.
Wood hasn’t disappointed anyone since, either.
Going into tonight’s opening round of the Class AAA Southeast Regional at Pottstown High School, the 220-pound phenom has proven time and time again there’s no noticeable chink in his wrestling armor. He has won 26 in a row since his only loss to Wyoming Seminary’s highly regarded Garrett Ryan during the Hurricane Classic at Bethlehem Liberty four days after Christmas. And that was no upset, mind you, not when considering InterMat’s No. 11 ranked Ryan was a state prep champion two weeks ago and the national prep runner-up to the almighty Kyle Snyder of Good Counsel (Md.) last weekend.

(For complete story, click here ... )

WRESTLING: Boundless history in 62 years of regionals

Owen J. Roberts head coach Steve DeRafelo, center, was a participant in the PIAA Southeast Regional 25 years ago as a student at Great Valley. DeRafelo finished third at 138 pounds to qualify for states. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)

By Don Seeley

POTTSTOWN — Tonight’s opening round of the Class AAA Southeast Regional marks the 62nd anniversary of the very first regional, which featured qualifiers from both District 1 and District 3.
The inaugural event, held in 1951, featured 11 weight classes. District 1 qualifiers accounted for 11 of the finalists and 11 of the consolation finalists.
Cheltenham’s John McHugh gave District 1 the first of its six champions by winning at 95 pounds. McHugh would later become the district’s first three-time regional champion after winning at 103 pounds the ensuing two years.

(For complete story, click here ... )

BOYS SWIMMING: OJR's Feiser, Upper Perk's Himmelwright win 50 free at districts

Swimmers, fans and officials stand for the national anthem before Thursday's boys session at the District 1 Swim Championships at La Salle University. (Photo by Steven Moore)

By Steven Moore

PHILADELPHIA — Big swim meets can often seem like never-ending affairs that require a detailed program and a GPS to navigate.
But no matter what colors you’re wearing, everyone pays attention to the 50 freestyle — the fastest event in the pool.
By those standards, two Pioneer Athletic Conference swimmers stole the show on Day 1 of the District 1 Boys Swimming Championships at La Salle University’s Kirk Pool.
Owen J. Roberts junior Sam Feiser and Upper Perkiomen senior Kyle Himmelwright both brought home gold medals Thursday, as Feiser won the Class AAA 50 free (20.97) and Himmelwright finished first in Class AA (22.21).
“I felt like with my taper I was ready to swim fast,” Feiser sad. “My teammates always help me with practice and my coaches are really supportive of my swims. My best time was a 21-high this year, and that was a (20.97) so I was happy about that.”

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Spring-Ford routs Rustin to reach District 1-AAAA final

West Chester Rustin's Emily Walls dribbles to the basket as Spring-Ford's Sammi Haas defends during Wednesday night's semifinal round District 1 Class AAAA playoff game at Norristown High School. (Photo by Brad Spahr)

By Darryl Grumling

NORRISTOWN — Brittany Moore and her Spring-Ford girls basketball teammates have been around the District 1-AAAA Tournament block a few times.
The Rams know what to expect, what it takes to win and what they want to accomplish.
And Wednesday night, they showed the crowd at Norristown High what kind of havoc they can wreak when they bring their A-game.
With Moore setting the tone by raining home three 3-pointers in the first quarter while also spearheading a dogged defensive effort, Spring-Ford turned its District 1-AAAA semifinal contest with Bayard Rustin into a virtual clinic in what wound up a 63-30 victory.

(For complete story, click here ... )

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Methacton blows by Whippets, earns second trip to states in school history

Rick Kauffman/Times Herald Staff Methacton's Jenna Carroll raises up for 2 of her 23 points over Downingtown West's Holly Schanck.

By Rick Kauffman

WORCESTER — The Methacton girls were all smiles Wednesday night, not just because of the win they achieved, but also because of what came with it.
For the second time in school history, and twice under coach Craig Kaminski, the Methacton girls basketball team earned a trip to the state tournament.
“It wasn’t easy, we took the hard road to get here,” Kaminski said. “But, we got to the big show.”
In Methacton’s 47-34 win over Downingtown West, their resolution was never in question.

(For complete story, click here ... )

BOYS BASKETBALL: Pope John Paul II pushes on to District 1 final, clinches states

Brent Mahoney led Pope John Paul II with 13 points in a win over Glen Mills Wednesday night in the District 1-AAA semifinals. (Photo by Barry Taglieber)

By Dennis Weller

WHITEMARSH — Even after allowing what amounted to a five-point play to fall behind by six late in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s District 1-AAA basketball semifinal, the Pope John Paul II boys continued on as if nothing had happened. The veteran-laden squad kept patiently running its offense and going to the basket and eventually overtook Glen Mills for a 48-42 win at Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Colonial Elementary.
That means that PJP will play for the district title for the first time in the school’s three-year history at Villanova University on Saturday at 8 p.m. against Upper Moreland, a 60-55 winner over Octorara, and advances to the PIAA Tournament for the third straight time.

(For complete story, click here ... )

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Boyertown falls to North Penn in District 1 playback

North Penn’s Vicky Tumasz, 22, races past Boyertown defenders for a basket during second half action of their District 1 Class AAAA playoff contest at North Penn High School on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (Photo by Mark C. Psoras\The Reporter)     
By Ben Reese

TOWAMENCIN — North Penn’s girls basketball team used some timely offense and stingy defense to move into the next round of the District 1 Class AAAA playoff playbacks.
The Maidens rallied from a sluggish first half to get past a sticky Boyertown, 53-45. North Penn advances to play Central Bucks West, a winner over Pennsbury, on Saturday at home.
Kaitlyn Eisenhard led the Bears with 12 points while Dee Terry and Olivia Cavallo each chipped in with nine apiece.

(For complete story, click here ... )

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Pope John Paul comeback effort comes too late

Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury Pope John Paul’s Lauren Dao drives against Merion Mercy’s Martha Zeller.

By Dennis Weller

WHITEMARSH — All the Pope John Paul II girls could do in the second half of Tuesday night’s District 1-AAA basketball semifinal was try to get back into the game one play at a time after a horrible half of shooting left them 17 points behind.
And that’s what they did, by not only finally hitting some of their own shots, but by also shutting down Merion Mercy’s inside game while cutting what had eventually become a 19-point deficit to just three by midway through the fourth quarter.
But Merion then scored its only basket of the final period and added 10 free throws in the last minute and a half to hold off the Golden Panthers, 47-35 at Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Colonial Elementary and clinch one of the district’s three spots in the PIAA Tournament. PJP will have a second chance to earn its first state berth in the three-year history of the school back at the same place on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against fourth-seeded Lower Moreland, a 52-28 loser to top-seeded Villa Maria.
Taylor Beardon scored 11 for the third-seeded Golden Panthers (17-6), all of them in the second half, and Caroline Corzel led 10th-seeded Merion (17-10) with 14 points, including six straight free throws down the stretch.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Methacton falls short in fourth quarter

Photo by Adrianna Hoff/JRC Methacton’s Sean Mann goes up for a 3-pointer during Tuesday’s game against Coatesville.

By Jonathan Vander Lugt
FAIRVIEW VILLAGE — One week ago, after its win over Souderton, Methacton coach Jeff Derstine stressed how important it’s going to be for his team to play all four quarters moving forward.
Never was that more evident than Tuesday night.
The first three quarters went well for the Warriors. Despite an officiating crew that was generous with the whistle, Methacton was able to establish and maintain an offensive rhythm. Its zone defense also kept Coatesville at bay, forcing the Raiders to take uncomfortable shots, and keeping them from penetrating in the lane. Methacton went into the fourth with a seemingly safe 42-36 lead.
From that point forward, the wheels came off.
Coatesville broke through Methacton’s defense in the fourth en route to outscoring the Warriors, 27-4, and coming away with a 63-46 blowout.

WRESTLING NOTEBOOK: OJR’s Moser: Black and blue and gold

Owen J. Roberts’ Adam Moser won the 145-pound title at the
District 1-AAA West Tournament over the weekend. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)
By Don Seeley

ROYERSFORD — Adam Moser looked as if he had just survived a backyard brawl, not a wrestling match.
The Owen J. Roberts senior’s nose, which had just stopped bleeding, was black-and-blue, his eyes were watering … all the result of a very physical encounter with Garnet Valley’s John Dambro. But Moser, with a gold medal draped around his neck for winning the 145-pound final with Dambro during last weekend’s District 1-Class AAA Tournament, said all was well.
Actually real well considering what he endured earlier this winter.
Moser suffered a throat injury that got to be a bit too much for him during the Beast of the East Classic in Delaware. That is if not being able to eat or drink anything without pain qualifies as a bit too much. And when it worsened right before the Buckskin Classic out in Lancaster during the holidays, he found himself in the hospital for six hours, undergoing a series of tests that included a scope of his esophagus.
“(The doctors) tried a lot of different drugs, then one seemed to work and I felt better,” Moser explained. “I was on liquid meals, and taking a pill before and after I ate.
“When I got back to wrestling I had a hard time breathing at first. I also lost 10 pounds, which is one of the big reasons why I’m down at 145 now.” 

Monday, February 25, 2013

SEELEY ON WRESTLING: Peaking PAC-10 showing strength in numbers

Owen J. Roberts’ Colby Frank, top, and Boyertown’s Eddie Kriczky worked their way through a daunting 126-pound bracket over the weekend at the District 1-AAA West Tournament. Frank won the gold medal and was named tournament Outstanding Wrestler while Kriczky pulled out the bronze in a 1-0 thriller against Spring-Ford’s Sean Hennessey to earn a spot at this weekend’s Southeast Regional at Pottstown. (File photo by Tom Kelly III)

By Don Seeley
All things are indeed relative, even in wrestling believe it or not.
In the past, there have been some great sectionals (well before this year’s switch to league championships). In the past, there have been some great districts (well before this year’s switch to a three-district alignment). And in the past, there have been some great Class AA districts (most notably when Octorara, Oxford, Phoenixville and Pottstown — just to name four — were much smaller and part of the bracket).
Yes, the weight classes have changed quite a few times, even the postseason schedule has been altered along the way.
And there have been good Pioneer Athletic Conference teams, actually great teams — most notably Pottstown, Spring-Ford and former member Great Valley early on, and Upper Perkiomen, Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts of late – that have stepped up and above the rest in their respective February fights, too.
But in the past two weeks, the PAC-10 — collectively, that is — just may have been the best it’s ever been. 

SWIMMING: District 1-AA seedings finally available

By Steve Moore

District 1 has apparently decided that the psych sheets for this week's swim championships are more valuable than the nuclear launch codes. But after a day of searching, we have finally obtained (at least half of) the Class AA psych sheets to go with the AAA sheets posted by last night (and summarized here).

The full boys AA psych sheets can be seen at the bottom of this post. The girls sheets should follow soon. The AAA sheets are available here (BOYS / GIRLS) courtesy of

Below is a quick rundown of Mercury-area qualifiers in Class AA:

AA BOYS THURSDAY (200 MR, 200 FR, 200 IM, 50 FR, 100 FLY, 200 FR)

  • 200 MEDLEY RELAY: Upper Perkiomen is the top overall seed, with Phoenixville fifth and Pottsgrove eighth.
  • 200 FREESTYLE: Upper Perk's Jason Mercando (1:52.73) is third. He's joined by three teammates: Hunter Peck is fifth (1:54.21), Bryon Scholl (1:56.46) is eighth and Tyler Baskin is 12th (2:01.37).
  • 200 IM: Pottsgrove's Morgan Schreiber is second (2:06.67), followed by Upper Perk's Brandon Umstead in third (2:07.48), Upper Perk's Quinn Perlstein in fourth (2:12.52) and Phoenixville's Josh Ziev in sixth (2:19.68).
  • 50 FREE: Upper Perk's Kyle Himmelwright is first (22.93), followed by Phoenixville's Jake Luzins in third (23.59), Pottstown's Anthony Gazzillo in sixth (23.99) and Phoenixville's Robert Newman in 11th (24.65).
  • 100 BUTTERFLY: Upper Perk's Mason Cassel is first overall (52.72), and is joined by teammate Ryan Mercando in seventh (1:03.48) and Phoenixville's Robert Newman in ninth (1:04.06).
  • 200 FREE RELAY: Upper Perkiomen is first while Phoenixville is fifth and Pottsgrove seventh.

AA GIRLS THURSDAY (200 MR, 200 FR, 200 IM, 50 FR, 100 FLY, 200 FR)

  • 200 MEDLEY RELAY: Phoenixville is seeded fourth and Upper Perkiomen is sixth. 
  • 200 FREE: No local qualifiers.
  • 200 IM: Upper Perk's Kirsten Siwy (2:21.13) is seeded eighth, Phoenixville's Devonne Moore is 10th (2:21.63), Pope John Paul's Morgan Fink is 14th (2:25.63) and Upper Perk's Kristin Kilroy is 16th (2:26.04).
  • 50 FREE: Phoenixville's Shawna Moore is ninth (26.26) and teammate Eileen Butler is 13th (26.51). 
  • 100 FLY: Phoenixville's Shawna Moore is 10th (1:03.80), Upper Perk's Jackie Hammill is 11th (1:04.02) and Phoenixville's Erin McElwee is 15th (1:05.05).
  • 200 FREE RELAY: Upper Perk is fourth and Phoenixville sixth. 

SWIMMING: District 1 seedings announced -- sort of

By Steve Moore

The psych sheets (seedings) for this week's District 1 Swimming Championships were supposed to be released Sunday, something my swim coach wife says usually happens without fail.

But apparently this year things are a little different. The district did not post the official sheets as of this writing (1 a.m. Sunday night), but the website did obtain the AAA sheets, which can be seen here: AAA Boys and AAA Girls. So, a nice tip of the hat to them. We'll post AA seedings once they're available.

If you don't feel like combing through the pages, I've done it for you. Below is a quick glance at some of the area contenders, divided by session at the pool this week. 

AAA and AA boys will swim from 10:30-2:30 on Thursday and Friday, while girls will swim from 4:15-8:00 on both days. Half the events on Thursday and half on Friday.

AAA BOYS THURSDAY (200 MR, 200 FR, 200 IM, 50 FR, 100 FLY, 200 FR)

  • 200 MEDLEY RELAY: Perkiomen Valley is seeded second overall behind Upper Dublin. Boyertown is seventh, Methacton ninth and Owen J. Roberts 19th,
  • 200 FREE: Boyertown's Steve Miller is seeded seventh (1:46.08) and Seth Underwood 13th (1:47.29).
  • 200 IM: Perkiomen Valley's Wyatt Amdor is fifth (1:59.47) and Boyertown's Russell Lambet is 11th (2:00.89).
  • 50 FREE: Owen J. Roberts' Sam Feiser is sixth (21.87) and Perkiomen Valley's Kyle Dix is tied for 10th (22.22).
  • 100 FLY: Owen J. Roberts' Feiser is sixth (52.86) and Methacton's Matthew Schulz is 14th (54.55).
  • 200 FREE RELAY: OJR is 10th (1:30.26) and Boyertown is 15th (1:31.17).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

WRESTLING: Bolig, Frank help OJR return to summit at District 1-AAA West Tournament

Owen J. Roberts’ Derek Gulotta pins Spring-Ford’s Ryan Hayes in the second period of the 113-pound final at the District 1-AAA West Tournament Saturday at Spring-Ford. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)

By Don Seeley

ROYERSFORD — Gordon Bolig said neither he nor any of his Owen J. Roberts teammates were thinking about the team title during last week’s inaugural Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships. At least not until the public address announcer uttered the team standings going into the final round … standings that revealed Boyertown, not Owen J. Roberts, had already clinched the team title.
“I don’t think any of us were aware (of the points standings) until that last round,” Bolig recalled. “So we knew coming into this week, with all of the individuals we had, we wanted to do our thing … get as many as we could to regionals and also win the team race.”
Well, the Wildcats sure did do their thing throughout Saturday’s District 1-Class AAA West Tournament at Spring-Ford High School, going a perfect 5-for-5 in the finals and adding in four other medalists to capture the team title.

(For complete story, click here ... )

BOYS BASKETBALL: Glen Mills’ second-half burst ousts Phoenixville

Phoenixville's DeAndre Gadsden and Glenn Mills's Khafese Jones compete for a rebound during Saturday's District 1-AAA playoff game. (Photo by Barry Taglieber)

By Barry Sankey

CONCORDVILLE — Eric Wallace calmly drained a last-second trey from the right corner to give Phoenixville a one-point halftime lead against host Glen Mills Saturday afternoon.
However, that dramatic shot did not tell the story of the second half of the District 1-AAAA quarterfinal boys basketball playoff contest.
The visiting Phantoms ran into a buzzsaw in the form of a 19-0 run by the Battling Bulls in the fourth quarter that triggered a 60-41 Glen Mills victory over Phoenixville.

(For complete story, click here ... )

WRESTLING: Video from District 1-AAA West Tournament

Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) and Darryl Grumling (@MercSmokinD) teamed up to provide video from Saturday's District 1-AAA West Tournament at Spring-Ford.

Check out a number of the Pioneer Athletic Conference's finest in action at our YouTube page.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mount stifles Eisenhard, routs Boyertown

Kaitlin Eisenhard became the program's all-time leading scorer in Saturday's loss to The Mount.
By Steven Moore

FLOURTOWN — About 90 seconds after watching his team completely shut down Boyertown during a 62-24 rout in Saturday’s District 1-AAAA girls basketball quarterfinal, Mount Saint Joseph Academy head coach John Miller was standing at midcourt, looking for someone to find a game ball for Kaitlyn Eisenhard’s mother.
It was a classy gesture from the Magic head coach, and a memorable moment for Kaitlyn Eisenhard and her family.
But with more work to do this season, the Bears are hoping to forget everything else about Saturday.
“This wasn’t just a loss, it was a embarrassing for us,” said Eisenhard, who scored just six points, but became the all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,374 points, one more than Wanda Moyer. “But if we can rebound and have a great game on Wednesday, that could really get us going for states. If we get a good seed in states we can make a deep run I think.”
Eisenhard was the main focus of the Magic defense, as the Mount’s top task was not only to double-team the Boyertown star, but deny her the ball on each and every possession.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Pottstown’s season comes to an end in loss to Upper Moreland

Pottstown's Steve Steinmetz battles Upper Moreland's Mark Williams for a rebound during Saturday's District 1-AAA boys basketball playoff game. (Bob Raines/JRC)

By Jeff Stover

WILLOW GROVE — Was it a microcosm of a troubled season?
It could be argued Pottstown’s loss to Upper Moreland in the opening round of the District 1 Class AAA playoffs was very much so. But head coach James “Cal” Benfield offered a differing viewpoint Saturday, at the conclusion of a 66-46 setback that brought the Trojans’ first campaign under his leadership to an end.
“It can’t be lost that we didn’t have the same starters today that we did at the beginning of the season,” Benfield said. “We played most of the year with people who didn’t have varsity experience.”
As was the case with its 2012-13 season, Pottstown (10-12) recovered from a slow early start in its first on-court action in three weeks.
(For the complete story, click here...) 

WRESTLING: Cherneskie, Flanigan place at National Preps

The Hill School’s Nick Flanigan, top, took eighth place in his weight class at the National Prep Championships Saturday at Lehigh. (File photo by Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury)

By Dennis Weller

BETHLEHEM — The goal for both Johnnie Cherneskie and Nick Flanigan this season was to make it to the National Prep Championships and then place — a task much more difficult than it might sound. First, to make it through a tough state tournament was no easy task. Then to go up against 31 others who also had to earn their way there and finish in the top eight of that elite group was an even more imposing assignment.
But it was one that the two Hill School wrestlers were pleased and proud to have accomplished when the 78th Annual National Prep Championship Tournament came to an end Saturday afternoon at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena.
Post-graduate Cherneskie finished up with a 2-1 win to claim seventh place at 182 pounds in the two-day affair and junior Flanigan placed eighth at 145 pounds after dropping a hard-fought 6-3 decision.
“My first goal was just to place,” said Cherneskie. “To do this is awesome. It was nice to end with a win in what might have been my last wrestling match. It definitely accomplished all my dreams. It’s amazing, just to be here in the top eight, making it to the second day out of 32 who had to win to get here.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

BOYS BASKETBALL: Pope John Paul II holds off Lower Moreland

By Dennis Weller

UPPER PROVIDENCE — Win and advance … lose and you’re done. There’s really no bigger incentive than that during the opening round of the district basketball playoffs, especially if you’re a senior.
And a couple of those Pope John Paul II seniors, who might have been playing their last game, were major contributors Friday night as the third-seeded Golden Panther boys fought off visiting Lower Moreland, 42-38, to move on to the District 1-AAA semifinals.
Jamel Sinson scored 12 and pulled in 14 rebounds for PJP (14-9) and Brent Mahoney scored 11, three of them on a bomb from the top of the circle that broke a tie with a little over a minute to go. Jake Cohen scored 18 for the sixth-seeded Lions (9-14).

(For complete story, click here ... )

BOYS BASKETBALL: Methacton comes up short against Great Valley

Methacton’s Brendan Casper blocks a shot by Brad Sherry of Great Valley in the third quarter. (Photo by Nate Heckenberger/JRC)

By Jonathan Vander Lugt

MALVERN — The stage was set for Methacton.
Riding the momentum of their 54-45 win over Souderton Thursday that clinched their program’s first-ever PIAA state playoff berth, sixth-seeded Methacton went on the road to take on the third-seeded Great Valley Patriots in their District 1-AAAA quarterfinal match with high hopes.
Methacton spent the majority of the game down, and when it looked the bleakest for the Warriors, they stepped up and fought back. Their furious fourth-quarter rally wasn’t enough though, and the Warriors fell to Great Valley in a 41-38 nailbiter.

(For complete story, click here ... )

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Payonk, Stipa lead Spring-Ford past C.B. West in 1-AAAA quarters

Spring-Ford's Sammy Stipa, left, knocks the ball away from Central Buck West's Nicole Munger during Friday's District 1-AAAA playoff game in Royersford. (Photo by Barry Taglieber)

By Darryl Grumling

ROYERSFORD — As the Spring-Ford girls basketball team broke its huddle and headed back to the court for the fourth quarter of Friday night’s District 1-AAAA quarterfinal against Central Bucks West, Rams coach Jeff Rinehimer left his squad with one last exhortation:
Play like a senior!” he urged.
Those words weren’t wasted on Sarah Payonk, who spent much of the night turning in one of the top performances of her four-year career.
The 5-foot-11 senior forward had 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds to highlight a dominant all-around effort in her final home game to help the Rams defeat the Bucks 60-45.
Junior guard Sammy Stipa scored a team-high 19 points for top seed and defending champion Spring-Ford (25-2), which will face the winner of today’s Pennsbury-West Chester Rustin quarterfinal in Wednesday’s semifinal at 7:30 p.m. at Norristown.

(For complete story, click here ... )

WRESTLING: Injury can’t take away Steffenino standard of excellence

From left, brothers Dante, Dustin and Dylan Steffenino have starred at Upper Perkiomen during their wrestling careers. All three qualified for this weekend's District 1 West Tournament, but Dylan Steffenino will be forced to sit it out due to a lingering shoulder injury suffered early in the season. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)

By Don Seeley

Halfway through his consolation semifinal last Saturday afternoon at the Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships, Dylan Steffenino screamed in pain … screamed loud enough to be heard throughout the Boyertown High School gymnasium.
Rita Steffenino, shaken by her son’s reaction, hastily stepped halfway down the stands, literally begging to stop the match. Mike Steffenino held his wife by her arm, his way of assuring her everything would be OK.
Actually it wasn’t.
The Upper Perkiomen senior had almost ran out of injury time, but courageously finished the match — a disheartening 4-2 loss to Pottstown’s Bryant Wise — just as he had all of the previous ones since returning from elbow surgery that cost him nearly two months of what was to be a very rewarding season.
Moments later, following a conversation with his parents and head coach Tom Hontz, it was decided the 126-pound Steffenino would return for the fifth-place final … and that would be it.
“We went up to Dylan and told him he’s not (healthy),” Hontz explained. “We told him, ‘Win this next one and go out with a victory.’
“It’s been real difficult for his parents having to watch him when he’s not 100 percent. They liked the idea of one last match, and Dylan seemed in favor of it, too.”
“(Hontz) just told me to go out, get that win, and we’ll pull the plug,” Steffenino added.
Like he has so often in his career, Steffenino ended it all with a pin to earn what would’ve been a spot in today’s opening round of the District 1-Class AAA West Tournament at Spring-Ford. Instead, he’ll be matside, hooting and hollering, like he has so often in his career, for twin brother Dante and younger brother Dustin.
“I definitely didn’t want to stop, but thinking long-term it was the best decision for me,” Steffenino said earlier this week. “It took a while for me to believe I was officially done wrestling. It’s been hard to take.”

(For complete story, click here ... )

WRESTLING: District 1 preview capsules

By Don Seeley

(At Spring-Ford)
Teams: Boyertown (Bt), Conestoga (Con), Garnet Valley (GarV), Harriton (Har), Haverford (Hav), Lower Merion (LM), Marple-Newtown (MN), Methacton (Meth), Owen J. Roberts (OJR), Penncrest (Pc), Perkiomen Valley (PV), Phoenixville (Px), Pottsgrove (Pg), Pottstown (Pt), Radnor (Rad), Ridley (Rid), Springfield-Delco (SFD), Spring-Ford (SF), Strath Haven (SH), Upper Darby (UD), Upper Perkiomen (UP).
Defending team champion: Owen J. Roberts (South in 2012).
Returning champions: Michael Marino, GarV (28-3) at 120; Darien Hain, Pt (31-2) at 160; Gordon Bolig, OJR (40-4) at 182; Jordan Wertz, Bt (31-9) at 195; Brad Trego, OJR (24-15) at 195.
Returning runners-up: Austin Petril, UD (29-1) at 113; Derek Gulotta, OJR (32-5) at 113; Ryan Flynn, MN (28-2) at 126; Dylan Steffenino, UP (11-9) at 126; Wolfgang McStravick, UP (40-5) at 132; Demetri D’Orsaneo, OJR (24-13) at 138; Adam Moser, OJR (32-8) at 145; Nick Giangiulio, PV (29-1) at 152; Joe Gartland, Pc (24-5) at 170; Gray Garber, Bt (20-11) at 170.
Notes: Upper Perkiomen’s Dylan Steffenino, a two-time state qualifier, and Pottstown’s Darien Hain, a two-time District 1-Class AA champion, will not compete due to injuries. … Radnor’s Matt Pelton (29-0 at 138) is the lone unbeaten in the field and one of only seven in all of the three district tournaments. … Petril, Giangiulio and Boyertown freshman Jordan Wood (37-1 at 220) are the only qualifiers with just one loss on the season. … McStravick, with 146 career wins, is currently tied with Methacton graduate Brandan Clark for 11th place on The Mercury’s all-time chart. He needs three more to tie Boyertown graduate Matt Malfaro (149) for 10th place. Bolig (120), Moser (109) and Spring-Ford’s Sean Hennessey (108) are the area’s other qualifiers to have reached the milestone.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Pope John Paul II shows no rust in rout of Chichester

Pope John Paul II's Ellen Chernaskey dribbles ahead of the pack on a breakaway as Chichester's Logan Newman and PJP's Haley Mesaros follow during Friday night's District 1-AAA playoff game. (Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury)

By Timothy J. Raub

UPPER PROVIDENCE — Coming into Friday night’s District 1 Class AAA quarterfinal game with eighth-seeded Chichester, it would have been no surprise had the Pope John Paul II girls basketball team come out with a little rust in their game.
Two weeks had passed since the Golden Panthers played a game of note, and a flaw here or there could have been expected.
But that wasn’t the case.
Not even close.
The third-seeded Panthers (17-5) used a healthy dose of stifling defense and a 21-5 run to open the game and never looked back en route to a 56-39 victory on their home court.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

BOYS TENNIS: New coach, new beginning for Pottstown

Ricardo Saad, a USTA-certified tennis pro who has coached players on the ATP and WTA tours, is taking over the Pottstown tennis program this spring. (Photo submitted)

By Steven Moore

If you drive past the new tennis courts at Pottstown High School most afternoons this spring, you might see a man teaching some boys the game he loves.
Now, that in and of itself is not that strange a sight. Tennis courts are busy places once the weather warms up, especially at some of the area’s perennial hotbeds for the sport, like Phoenixville, Methacton and Spring-Ford.
But at Pottstown – where there hasn’t been a boys tennis team in roughly a decade – the sight of any Trojan holding a tennis racket will raise an eyebrow.
Enter Ricardo Saad – a 53-year-old tennis pro who holds the highest United States Tennis Association certification, has coached players on both the ATP and WTA tours, has represented his native Argentina as a player and who owns his own tennis academy in Florida.
Oh, he also has an advanced degree in electrical engineering.
One more thing: as of this spring, Ricardo Saad will be charged with the task of reviving the Pottstown boys tennis program.

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WRESTLING: Hill’s Saunders leads 7 locals into National Prep Championships

The Hill School’s Chad Saunders, right, is hoping for a return to the medal stand at the National Prep Championships this weekend at Lehigh University. Saunders was a runner-up as a freshman. (File photo by John Strickler/The Mercury)

By Don Seeley

The National Prep Championships have gotten their share of criticism through the years, anything from not being a true national event to not being all that competitive.
Try selling that to those who have already stepped onto the mats for prep schools’ season-ending event. For that matter, try selling it to the seven area wrestlers who will participate in today’s opening rounds in Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena.
None of those seven recognizes how difficult it is more than The Hill School’s Chad Saunders. Two years ago, he worked his way to the finals before getting pinned in less than a minute and settling for the silver medal. Last year, he went two-and-out.
Saunders, of course, hopes to extend his stay today and Saturday, as do teammates Nick Flanigan, Johnnie Cherneskie, John Hill and Kostya Golobokov. They’ll be joined by West-Mont Christian’s Austin Mortimer and Zach Coffey.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Boyertown tops Garnet Valley, earns PIAA bid

Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury Boyertown’s Marie Valenti brings the ball upcourt ahead of Garnet Valley’s Madison Ireland and Haley Warden. Valenti’s defensive effort contained Jaguars star Coley Ricci, who managed most of her 15 points after the outcome had long been decided.

By Darryl Grumling

BOYERTOWN — Boyertown’s Marie Valenti didn’t exactly enjoy an auspicious beginning to the girls basketball season — sitting out the first 10 games due to injury.
But the junior guard is certainly making her presence felt during the stretch run for the Bears.
Valenti earned her first start of the season in Wednesday’s District 1-AAAA second-round game against Garnet Valley, and helped key a strong defensive effort as Boyertown came away with a 47-38 victory to earn its second PIAA Tournament berth in the past three years.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Spring-Ford ovewhelms Whippets in runaway win

Spring-Ford's Sammy Stipa looks to shoot over Downingtown West's Kayla Feairheller. Photo by Barry Taglieber

By Don Seeley

ROYERSFORD ­— Shelby Mueller and Sammy Stipa claim Spring-Ford still has a lot to work on, to improve on.
Not exactly a scary thought, but sure close.
It may be hard to imagine the Rams playing their customary aggressive, all-over-the-court defense much better than they did in Wednesday night’s second round of the District 1-Class AAAA playoffs. Creating 30 turnovers, after all, can be downright frightening, for the opposition that is.
But it was that defense that helped overshadow a less-than-daunting effort at the other end of the court and guided the Rams to a convincing 52-31 victory over visiting Downingtown West.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Methacton falls into consolations after loss

Photo by Adrianna Hoff/JRC West Chester Rustin’s Noelle Powell looks for an opening through Methacton’s Jenna Carroll and Kara Steinke.

By Jon Vander Lugt

FAIRVIEW VILLAGE — Coming off of Tuesday night’s state playoff berth-clinching win for the boys’ team at Methacton, their girls headed into Wednseday’s game with similar expectations.
Unfortunately, the Methacton faithful went home with a different result. The Warriors dropped a heartbreaker to lower-seeded West Chester Rustin, 54-49.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Cold-shooting Upper Perkiomen falls to Gwynedd Mercy

Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury Upper Perkiomen’s Danni Moser loses control of the ball after colliding with Gwynedd-Mercy’s Bridgette Coleman on Tuesday night.

By Dennis Weller

RED HILL — If only a few more shots had dropped through the hoop for Upper Perkiomen, Tuesday night’s District 1-AAA girls basketball opening-round contest might have ended differently. But the Indians struggled with their shooting much of the night, especially as they fell behind by eight points during a nervous first quarter, and their best season in a long, long time came to an end with a 49-44 loss to visiting Gwynedd Mercy Academy.
Holly Crossin scored 11 for eighth-seeded Upper Perk (13-11), which trailed the entire time except for one tie and a single one-point lead, and Stacey Auckland followed with 10 points. Erica DeCandido topped the ninth-seeded Monarchs (11-13) — who will travel to No. 1 Villa Maria for a quarterfinal contest on Friday — with 13 points, including 7-for-8 shooting from the line in the fourth quarter, and Bailey Greenberg contributed 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

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BOYS BASKETBALL: Methacton beats Souderton, secures state berth

Photo by Mark C. Psoras/JRC Methacton’s Anthony O’Brien applauds as Souderton’s John Kanas gets ejected from the game during Tuesday’s District 1-AAAA playoff game at Methacton. Kanas received two technical fouls and was thrown out in the second half. The Warriors advance to the quarterfinals, where they will travel to Great Valley on Friday night (7 p.m.). The win also secured Methacon a bid in the PIAA Tournament.

By Jeff Stover

FAIRVIEW VILLAGE — There was some uncertainly about when — if ever — the Methacton boys basketball program qualified for the PIAA state playoffs.
But there was no question about the Warriors achieving that feat Tuesday ... and even less about the effort they put out in their berth-securing 54-45 victory over Souderton.
Playing high-octane ball over the final eight minutes, the Warriors reversed a six-point deficit into a decisive second-round victory in District 1’s Class AAAA bracket. And by virtue of reaching the tournament’s quarterfinal round, Methacton guarantees itself of at least four more games in the postseason — not to mention continued contention for district medals.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Phoenixville falls to Sun Valley in 1-AAA tourney

Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville’s Mary Sinnott pulls the ball away from Sun Valley’s Katie Maloney during Tuesday night’s playoff game.

By Barry Sankey

ASTON — Phoenixville’s girls hung with favored Sun Valley for most of the game before falling to the Vanguards, 66-51, in the first round of the District 1-AAA playoffs Tuesday night.
Phoenixville, the 12th seed, ended its year at 5-17 overall.
Sun Valley (17-6), the fifth seed, will travel to face fourth-seeded Lower Moreland in the quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at 1:30.

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ATHLETES OF THE WEEK: Owen J. Roberts’ Colby Frank and Spring-Ford’s Sarah Payonk

Colby Frank
Sarah Payonk


Colby Frank
Owen J. Roberts

What he has done
Frank outdid everyone in the 126-pound weight class during the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship tournament. The Wildcat junior (21-4) opened with a pin of Pottsgrove’s Tyler Van Horn, blanked Spring-Ford’s Sean Hennessey (3-0), then beat Boyertown’s Eddie Kriczky (5-2) for the gold medal and the tourney’s Outstanding Wrestler Award.

What he says
“I take every match and wrestle everyone like it’s my last match. You can’t go out there and over-think. It’s the postseason now, and I know what my goals are. I know what I want to get done.”

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Monday, February 18, 2013

SEELEY: Long live the league championships

Upper Perkiomen’s Dante Steffenino wins the championships at 120 pounds over Spring-Ford’s Matt Krieble at the Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships over the weekend at Boyertown. (Photo/Tom Kelly III)

By Don Seeley

There was (actually still is) a lot of debate on District 1’s shift from sectionals to league championships to begin the postseason.
Some argued there was no need to abandon the six-section format — in place since 1974 (or since 1957 if you go all the way back to when sectionals began) — so history was certainly on their side. They even borrowed the old adage about not needing to fix something that wasn’t broken.
Some countered that argument with geography, or the lack thereof — grouping some teams in with others that really weren’t that close to one another. That, they added, may have been one big reason why most if not all the sections were losing money.
But maybe, just maybe, everybody overlooked, as they have so often in the past, the most important aspect of the issue — the wrestlers themselves.
What do they prefer? Or, to be more specific, what is more important to them, a section or league championship?