NORRISTOWN >> Five years ago, then in his first year as head coach of the Perkiomen Valley High School boys basketball team, Mike Poysden made a pact with a certain eighth grader following his team’s win over Methacton in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game.
“I said to him, ‘How about we get you 1,000 (points) and we get you one of these?” Poysden recalled, referencing the 2012-2013 championship.
Five years later, mission accomplished.
Senior Justin Jaworski, who has come a long way since being a promising middle schooler, caught fire during the fourth quarter of this season’s PAC championship game as Perkiomen Valley overcame Spring-Ford, 52-45, to claim the title Tuesday night at Norristown.
After being held to just three points through the game’s opening half, Jaworski notched a game-high 24 points, which included Perk Valley’s final 15 points to seal the win late.
Not bad, considering he started the night a humbling 0-for-7 from the field.
“My shots finally started to fall during the fourth quarter,” said Jaworski afterward, “so for me it was all about staying ready and keeping my confidence. If I go out there and I’m nervous, that won’t help me, that won’t help my teammates. So I had to go out there and just picture myself shooting with nobody around.”
In the late stages Jaworski was a one-man gang, his teammates constantly finding him as No. 3 seeded Spring-Ford (11-2 PAC, 17-7 overall) attempted to utilize intentional fouls to stay in it. Jaworski would have none of it, though, finishing a clean 10-for-10 from the free throw line during the final stretch to close it out.
The conference title stands as Perk Valley’s first since Jaworski was just a mild-mannered eighth grader. Still, right from that point, Poysden knew what he had coming up through the ranks.
The Vikings (11-2, 21-3) were quite literally a second away from claiming the plaque last season, but after a controversial finish PV saw it fall through the cracks against Spring-Ford. For Poysden, that’s what has made this season that much more special.
“A couple of years later, for it to be right there and sort of taken away, that made (Jaworski) and I and his teammates even more focused for this season,” said Poysden. “We had a ridiculous offseason in terms of focus on improvement.
“As a team that has no player over 6-1, there’s a scrap inside these guys that comes from pushing each other constantly in practice.”
Much like last season’s title bout, nothing was a sure thing Tuesday night.
Perk Valley needed to turn away from its main scorer to generate any sort of rhythm early on.
Sophomore Tyler Strechay and senior Sean Owens were more than willing, finishing with 12 and eight points, respectively.
The pair made their largest impact during a 16-second stretch of the fourth quarter, though.
Trailing 38-31 with less than five minutes to go, Owens knocked down a 3-pointer from the left elbow. Just 16 seconds later, Strechay followed with another trey to suddenly make it a two-point game.
“Stretch’s three was a big one,” said Owens. “When we felt that, we knew we were right back in it, one possession. We knew we needed to keep playing defense and get a couple stops.”
After a bucket by Noah Baker to make it 40-36, Jaworski suddenly kicked it into gear.
Jaworski took a hard drive to the hoop and converted it for two. Then, on the subsequent possession, he drained a 3-pointer to give PV its first lead since midway through the third quarter.
Perk Valley’s tenacious and scrappy defense was too much for Spring-Ford, whose roster lists seven players above 6-1. Junior big-man Austin Hokanson, who had scored 15 points the last time the two teams met in January, was held scoreless for the night along with fellow forward Adam Geremski.
Much of the credit goes to forwards Strechay and Hogan Millheim (five points), who manned the paint and rarely gave up an easy trip to the basket.
“I noticed in prior games that I was letting Hokanson get real deep on me in the post,” said Millheim. “So tonight, I really tried to push him outside of his comfort zone, out farther so he couldn’t get position on me.”
Noah Baker led Spring-Ford with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Nestor Diaz had 12 points.
Chucky Drummond followed with 10 points and left the Perk Valley faithful shaking in the stands after a clutch 3-pointer with under 20 seconds to go to make it a one-possession game at 48-45.
Standing atop the ladder, just moments after he cut the net down for the first time in half a decade, Poysden would have been right to think of many things to be thankful for, including a wise five-year-old prognosis.
“This is not vindication against Spring-Ford or anything like that,” said Poysden. “To me, this is validation of that promise that Justin and I made together.”