HERSHEY >> Friday night was all business for Katie Armstrong and the Boyertown girls basketball team during the opening round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs.
No intimidation. No nerves. Strictly business.
The Bears jumped all over three-time defending champion Cumberland Valley from the get-go, in the end claiming a 50-35 win at Milton Hershey’s Spartan Center.
“We weren’t intimidated,” said Armstrong, clutching onto a luke-warm, half-filled cup of coffee after the game. “We knew what we were up against — the three-time defending state champs. That’s not easy at all. We brought the energy with us right from the start and it showed.”
Boyertown never trailed and jumped out to a 20-8 lead by the end of the first half. As Cumberland Valley continued to climb back — the Eagles brought it to within two points midway through the third — Boyertown used a 19-6 run over the final 11 minutes to seal it.
It was Boyertown’s first win at the state level since the 2011 season, when the Bears eventually lost in the semifinal round to Mount Saint Joseph. With the win, Boyertown, the sixth-seed out of District One, will face Garnet Valley in Tuesday’s second round.
Much like her drink in-hand, Armstrong provided plenty of energy for the Bears throughout the night. The senior finished with 16 points and kick-started the third and fourth quarters with clutch 3-pointers.
“We were spreading the floor and the shots were falling,” she said. “My teammates were driving to the basket then kicking it out to me. They did the hard part.”
Armstrong was a fixture on the defensive end as well as the glass. As Boyertown began to create its separation late in the third, she ripped an offensive rebound from the CV defender, then turned and dropped it in with a foul before converting the three-point play.
Armstrong’s progress as a player, says head coach Jason Bieber, was on full display similar to how it had been down the late stages of the season.
“She never really got to play that much until this year,” said Bieber of Armstrong. “She went from being a minimal varsity player to a first team all-league player this year. She’s been huge for us this season.”
Standout senior Abby Kapp led the Bears with 17 points, shooting 9-for-11 at the free throw line while Alli Marcus finished with seven points and five assists.
Much in agreement with Armstrong, Kapp admits there wasn’t an intimidation level, but there was certainly a name recognition.
“Knowing who they are and what they’ve done,” she said, “that adds a lot to it. I think this was the first playoff game that we played with absolutely no nerves. That was as calm as I’ve seen us play.”
She also recalled Boyertown’s last trip to states her sophomore year, which was ended by Cumberland Valley in the opening round in 2015.
“That was an emotional time,” said Kapp, who is committed to play at Bucknell. “I remember it vividly, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t motivating for me and the rest of the seniors.”
Early on, Boyertown had its hands full with senior guard Katie Jekot. The Saint Joseph’s University commit scored 12 of Cumberland Valley’s first 14 points en route to 13 in the first half. CV used a 15-6 advantage during the second quarter to make it 26-23 at the half.
The Boyertown defense kept Jekot awfully quiet during the second half, though. With Alli Marcus and Victoria Boalton switching on and off, Jekot was held to just five points during the final 16 minutes, every one of her running-floater attempts under heavy duress.
“We knew we needed to contest every one of her shots,” said Bieber. “We held her in check during the second half and that was huge for us defensively. She’s a great player and she’s definitely a hand-full.”
The defense also had its way with 6-0 forward Addison Kirkpatrick in the paint, crashing the post any time she got the ball and rarely letting her face the basket.
“We had to play together start to finish and we did,” said Armstrong. “I’m so proud of this team.”
Now as they start gear up for Tuesday’s second rounder, piping-hot Boyertown will look to add some sugar to an already memorable season.