If ever there was an opportunity for bench players to show what they could do, it came Tuesday night in the Suburban One League National Conference battle between defending District 1 Class AAAA champion Abington and defending conference champ Council Rock North.

Not by choice but by chance.

The Ghosts were without their two top scorers, Aiyannah Peal and Sarah Listenbee, but they managed to keep the game close for the first half before bowing, 60-37.

The pair were suspended for one game because of their involvement in a shoving match with Neshaminy players in the Ghosts' 37-34 win Friday night.

North's Megan Cunningham (illness) and Emily Grundman (injury) missed Tuesday night's game, and teammate Devin Gold was sick and not at full strength.

Both coaches, Lou Palkovics of North and Dan Marsh of Abington, were pleased with the effort they received from their patched-up lineups.

Fortunately for the 2-0 Indians, they still had Gold's younger sister Lauren for some firepower. She finished with 22 points and sparked a third-quarter spurt that put the game away for North.

"Devin gave us a great game, but how about the games we got from Helena Gemmell and Alyssa Jett?" Palkovics said.

Gemmell, a 5-foot-10 junior forward, started and contributed seven points. Jett, a 5-9 senior, came off the bench and added three points. Despite feeling ill, Devin Gold scored eight.

Marsh had high praise for his subs, too.

Francesca Montrosso, a 5-4 junior guard, made her varsity debut by coming off the bench and chipping in with three points.

"We've had some adversity, and I wasn't sure how the team would handle it," Marsh said. "We joked about making adversity our middle name. At least we know now that we can play with them."

The two teams will meet again Jan. 25 at North.

Jett acknowledged that she was nervous when Marsh called on her.

"It was very intense out there," she said after the game. "I thought I played well for my first time [in a varsity game]."

First playoffs set. The Ches-Mont League will hold boys' and girls' basketball playoffs this season for the first time since the league was formed in 1950. It became a 14-team, two-division league three years ago with the inclusion of the former Southern Chester County League schools.

The top two teams in the American Division (smaller schools) and the National Division (larger schools) will qualify for the playoffs. The first-place winner in each division will play the second-place finisher from the other division in the opening round, with the winners advancing to a championship game.

According to Sean Harvey, athletic director and boys' basketball coach at Oxford, the push to hold the playoffs came from coaches.

"The coaches think it's great for the kids," Harvey said. "It gives them greater exposure. Everything about them [playoffs] is all positive."

Downingtown East girls' basketball coach Bob Schnure is another big supporter of the league playoffs.

"I think the playoffs will add an element of excitement for the league," Schnure said. "The PAC-10 [Pioneer Athletic Conference] playoffs have been very successful. They've turned into a big event."

Rams looking good. Spring-Ford coach Jeff Rinehimer has several new faces this season, but his team is off to a strong start.

Entering Wednesday night's nonleague game against Hatboro-Horsham, the Rams were 4-0, with impressive wins over perennial power Cheltenham (62-58) and Boyertown, one of the schools expected to make some noise in the PAC-10.

"We set our goals like Villanova's Jay Wright - win the next game," said Rinehimer, who is in his 17th season. He is counting heavily on senior guard/forward Megan Yates, 6-0 junior Maria Traywick, and sophomore Sammi Haas.

Rinehimer should get a good reading on the Rams during the holiday break. They will host a tournament Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday that includes Daniel Boone, Hempfield, Central Bucks South, Downingtown West, and Conestoga.

"There's a lot of basketball ahead," Rinehimer said.