Hertzog: Perk Valley revels in its Rocky moment
The final whistle blew, the smiles and celebrating began, but Lena Stein’s job wasn’t finished.
She had a speech to make. With the fury and flair that matched her on-court performance in the 90 minutes prior, her Perkiomen Valley girls basketball teammates huddled around as Stein delivered the impassioned monologue from 2006’s Rocky Balboa, where Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky lets his son, played by Milo Ventimiglia, know ‘the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.’
“It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it,” Rocky tells his son. “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Stein hit all the right notes in the speech and Perk Valley truly showed how winning is done Wednesday night in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game.
The Vikings were devastating defensively and were buoyed by a strong-shooting first half in a 51-26 takedown of five-time reigning PAC champion SpringFord on their home floor, Perk Valley’s first league title since 2015-16.
“Rocky’s my guy,” Stein said. “I brought it to the team last year. It’s our pregame ritual. We have a flag with all the words on it in the locker room.”
She’s been hyping the team up with the speech since last year – that’s why her teammates were reciting along to the speech – but it’s hard to imagine it sounded sweeter any time before.
Rocky is the right parallel for the Vikings. Last year was Rocky I, the up-and-comer losing in the end, which coincided with PV being bested by Spring-Ford 43-36 in the 2022 final. Wednesday, fittingly, was much more Rocky II when
Rocky wins the rematch with Apollo Creed, mirroring PV’s unseating of Spring-Ford.
There aren’t any training videos set to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” but Ella Stein, PV’s lone senior, sees the behind-thescenes work as the differencemaker for a team that is 23-1 and the No. 1 seed for the upcoming District 1 Class 6A tournament.
“The only people that truly know how much work we put in are us,” said Ella Stein, the eldest of the three Stein sisters on the roster. “We’d practice before school three days a week through the spring and fall and no one knows that but us, but this is why we’re doing it. To get that No. 1 seed in districts and to win the PAC championship, it looks like magic but really, it’s everything that’s going on behind the scenes.”
Ella Stein exemplifies PV’s collective success, accepting of her reserve role while happily taking on leading roles in other off-the-floor areas.
“These girls really do put in more work than anyone I’ve ever met,” she said. “And it pays off, but it’s incredible. Everyone is so, so committed to the team’s winning. It’s awesome.”
Stein is right. It’s not magic. But with a starting lineup of five sophomores – Lena Stein, Grace Galbavy, Quinn Boettinger, Julia Smith and Bella Bacani – it defies expectation, the quality and poise the Vikings have played with this winter.
Galbavy’s introduction after transferring from Upper Perkiomen last summer could have upset a squad that was coming off a run to the PIAA quarterfinals. Instead, she has filled some of the scoring void left by graduated standouts Jen Beattie and Emma Miley, and helped the pieces all fall into place.
“We’re just a really good allaround team. I think that’s why it’s so hard to stop us,” said Galbavy “because really, it’s not just me, it’s not just Quinn, not just Lena. Lena and the Steins (Ella, Anna) do stuff that’s not on the stat sheet. (Lena) can lock up their best player but if you look at the stat sheet, you won’t see that.”
Also defying expectation was the Vikings holding the Rams to a season-low 26 points, which even bettered their PACbest 32.4 points against average. Galbavy and Lena Stein hindered the success of S-F standouts Mac Pettinelli (5 points) and Anna Azzara (13 points) to lead the defensive charge.
“We just have fun players. We have five players that can come in the game and hit shots. We’re like an engine; we can get stops on defense, we’re a really, really good defensive team and we also have people who can score, so the puzzle is just complete,” Lena Stein said.
“No one is being selfish, we’re not selfish one bit. You share the ball, points will come. We’re not focused on the numbers on the stat sheet because that’s not how we’re gonna win championships.”
Rocky’s right. The world truly can knock you down.
But at the same time, Wednesday night had its share of sunshine and rainbows for the Vikings.