Perk Valley, Spring-Ford set up finals rematch
GRATERFORD >> Everyone was kept on their toes by the starting lineup of the Perkiomen Valley girls basketball team last year.
Three freshmen – Bella Bacani, Julia Smith and Lena Stein – shared the Vikings’ fifth starting spot, a rotation rooted in matchups and unpredictability.
This season, the trio still shares equally well. But now it’s about the ball instead of a spot for threefifths of PV’s starting five.
Crisp, flowing ball movement was just one of many things that went right for Perkiomen Valley Saturday night when it proved too much to handle in a 58-33 victory over Methacton in a Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinal that sends the Vikings to the championship for the second straight season.
The No. 1 seed Vikings (22-1) advance to face fivetime defending champion Spring-Ford – a winner over Phoenixville in the other semifinal – at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Perkiomen Valley.
“I’m super excited. This is what we’ve been working for all season, we’ve just gotta pull through,” Lena Stein said. “We’ve put in so much work.”
Point guard Bacani was the hot hand for the Vikings as she caught fire in the third quarter with 16 of her game-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers. It turned a game where Methacton was within striking distance down nine at halftime (25-16) into a rout a quarter later when PV’s lead grew to 46-24 entering the fourth.
“Coming out from halftime, we kept going hard. No brakes, going all gas,” Bacani said. “Going really, really hard is what you have to do out of halftime.”
Bacani was one of three Vikings in double figures, joined by fellow sophomores Grace Galbavy and Quinn Boettinger with 18 and 13 points, respectively. It was PV’s third win over Methacton this season.
Methacton (16-8), which fell in the semifinal for the second straight year, got 12 points from sophomore Abby Arnold and 10 from senior Cassidy Kropp.
The consistent spot in the starting lineup has been a source of motivation for Bacani, Stein (4 points) and Smith.
“All of us rotating last year, it really motivated us to play hard this year and work together,” Bacani said. “It motivated me a lot, to shoot more, to drive more because last year I didn’t really do that. In the offseason I worked really hard to get this position.”
It’s also been validating. “We’re all being rewarded for everything we’ve shown we can do,” Stein said. “It’s great to have that responsibility and that role on an amazing team with such great teammates.”
“Starting now, I have a lot more confidence in myself,” Smith said. “I know that’s true for Lena and Bella, too.”
Spring-Ford 64, Phoenixville 17
GRATERFORD >> Spring-Ford guard Mac Pettinelli was fed the ball off the opening tip against No. 2 Phoenixville and she wasted no time scoring within seconds of it being put in her hands.
The 5-foot-10 junior set the tone with five straight points, igniting a 7-0 run to start for the Rams in the Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinals. And they never looked back, stampeding their way over the Phantoms in a 64-17 win at Perkiomen Valley.
With the win, No. 3 seed Spring-Ford (21-3) will face top-seeded Perkiomen Valley in the latter’s own gym for the PAC title Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be a rematch of last year’s PAC championship, in which Spring-Ford won, 43-36.
“We knew they were here for a reason,” Azzara said on Phoenixville (129), the Frontier champion that earned a first-round bye in the tournament. “We couldn’t underestimate them, we had to do our best and do our own thing, not worry too much about them but play our game.”
Against Owen J. Roberts two days prior, Azzara had an off night of shooting and finished with seven points. But in the semifinal round, Azzara — who surpassed her 1,000th career point last week — reminded all why she’s the second-leading scorer in the PAC (15.9 ppg) and dialed in to match Pettinelli’s team-high 15 points.
Six of Azzara’s points came during the second quarter in the midst of a 15-0 run that ballooned an already daunting lead — 21-5 after eight minutes of play.
“Last time wasn’t the best shooting night for me, but it happens,” Azzara said. “Just gotta push through and keep working on my shot.”
Caroline Flick snapped Spring-Ford’s 15-point run with a basket in the final minute of the half to head into the locker room with the Rams up 41-13.
From there, Spring-Ford’s defense paved the way. The Phantoms were held to just one field goal and a pair of free throws through the remainder of the game as the clock continued to run.
“It’s difficult because they can drive. You gotta protect the layup, and they also have a 3-point shot,” Phoenixville coach Tracey Sterling said. “You go out into a zone, they’re gonna hit that outside shot. You go man, they’re getting that layup. It’s being aggressive and working on a scramble defense to make them turn the ball over.”
Senior center Megan Robbins had a strong night on the boards and scored 10.