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A Stellar Group

LRSC Patch Editor Kevin Haslam pays tribute to the 2011-12 Spring-Ford High School girls basketball team.

Dear Spring-Ford Area,

It’s not very often I get to voice my opinions. However, I want to get a chance to reach out to you, the community.

First, I would like to extend my gratitude to all of the people in town who have greeted me with a smile, told me we’re doing a great job with Patch and helped me out with my work. The list is far too long to give my Oscar speech of thank-yous, but you all know who you are.

Second, I want to say: WOW! What an awesome season for girls basketball!

I had an opportunity to see a really special boys basketball team play when I was the sports editor for a previous Patch. It was a group of diverse kids who were well-coached and had a lot of heart. I thought I'd never see a better team play in my sports reporting career.

Then, I came to Spring-Ford High School, and let me tell you... These girls blew my mind!

I'm an old school kind of guy. I said this before, but I’ve lost a lot of love for basketball since my diehard fandom in the mid-90s when Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley graced the courts with a strong team presence. (Yes, I just named almost the entire cast of Space Jam.)

I like solid defense and aggressive rebounding on both sides of the ball. The crap you see in the NBA, with guys taking shots and fading away as if to say, "I'm either going to make this, or just get back on defense" truly is pathetic. So, it is a true breath of fresh air to see a team like the Spring-Ford girls be coached to crash the boards and rise to the occasion that is The Second Chance.

For those that missed it, the Rams lost a very tough game against on March 20 to end what was a truly amazing season. It was a season where the Rams team didn't give up a loss for 26 straight games, won a AND a , and made a trip to the PIAA State Semifinals. It was a season where 18th-year head coach Jeff Rinehimer won the All-Area Coach of the Year.

It was a season where seniors and took the reigns as leaders. Traywick was one of three Spring-Ford girls to make the All-Area First Team. She also was First Team PAC-10. Lynch is an incredible three-sport athlete and will have even more success as she continues her track & field career this spring. No matter what went down, Lynch always had a smile on her face, and I appreciated that.

Don’t forget about newcomer , a senior who came in this year with little varsity basketball experience from the state of Idaho. Burgess received honorable mention on the All-Area team, and provided leadership and spark off the strong Spring-Ford bench.

It was a season where the junior class provided talent and will. Forward Sarah Payonk joined Traywick on the First Team All-Area, while guard Brittany Moore made the Second Team. Payonk showed persistence and valor getting the boards. Moore provided the outside presence the team looked to when they needed a momentum shift on offense.

The team's fifth starter, Courtney Hinnant was another driving force. While Hinnant didn't come out scoring in double digits every night, she was the definition of the Rams mentality - some nights you're the star, and some nights you blend in and contribute to the collective whole. Hinnant was the other honorable mention candidate for the All-Area team. By the end of the year, this junior class had our community excited for 2012-13.

It was a year where sophomores Sammy Stipa and Shelby Mueller really came into their own. With speed and confidence, the young Stipa took the ball up the court and delivered night after night for the Rams. She was selected to the third team All-State, and was the remaining First Team All-Area player. Mueller's talent and work ethic was certainly overshadowed by all of the Spring-Ford stars. But, she, like many of the bench players, was a key player when it counted.

Mueller will be expeced to fulfill a bigger role next year, along with a few others. Junior Sammi Haas is another baller and vocal leader on the court. She was a real pleasure to talk to and watch. Her intensity cannot be matched. And there's also freshman Maggie Locke, who was able to come in late in games and show us what we have to look forward to. Expect to see some pleasant surprises in our Unsung Hero winners and (both juniors this year), too.

But, enough of the on the court stuff… I’m here to talk to you, Spring-Ford Area residents and basketball fans, about character.

Coming into this job, I knew what to expect talking to high school kids, as I had six months of previous experience. Before that, most of my experience was with college athletes. But, I was coming from a different market and a different state. So, coming to Pennsylvania, I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into.

Knowing the way kids can be these days (trust me, I was one of them six years ago), I was hoping I didn’t get a load of shyness or disrespect. But, as a reporter, you have to deal with what you get.

After a full season of basketball, and even just seeing kids in the halls or at games, I can say that I am impressed with you Spring-Ford! Through big wins, tough losses, and saying goodbye to the seniors, not once did I feel scrutinized, disrespected or that I didn’t get a good story.

Honestly, people, I think that this is a huge credit to Rinehimer and his coaching staff: Athletic Director Mickey McDaniel, Randy Doaty, Geoff Kahler and Jeff Mast. And I think it’s an even bigger credit to the parents of this town.

The players I spoke with, this year: Mariah, Nikki, Jaida, Sarah, Brittany, Courtney, Sammy Stipa, Sammi Haas... What an incredible group. I mean, just so much passion for the sport and so much maturity for their age… It was a true pleasure talking hoops with them all.

I talked to a few of the girls, but didn’t really get a chance to say much to anyone after sadness filled the "locker room" on that fateful night.

If I can say one thing to this group of kids, and I hate to be repetitive, but it would be: thank you. Thank you for your time and kindness, but most of all, thank you for showing myself, and more importantly, the fans of Rams girls basketball some GREAT games this year! Looking forward to covering you all again next year.

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