READING >> Reading stood as one Goliath too many.
Days after defeating District 12 champ Roman Catholic, Perkiomen Valley couldn’t achieve the same feat against District 3 powerhouse Reading as the Vikings couldn’t close out the Red Knights in an eventual 62-52 loss in the PIAA Class 6A boys playoffs Thursday night at Santander Arena.
Senior Justin Jaworski finished with a team-best 21 points while fellow senior Hogan Millheim poured in an additional 16 for the Vikings. The duo torched the Red Knight defense in the first half, Jaworski going off for 12 of his team-high total with Millheim owning the paint with his physicality, scoring 10 of his points in the second quarter as the Vikings built a 30-25 lead at the break.
The Vikings, searching for their deepest PIAA run in school history, built a lead as large as eight and held a 48-43 lead midway through the fourth quarter before turnovers and a resurgent Reading team came back and promptly shut the door.
“I couldn’t have been prouder to watch these three seniors get to this point,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Mike Poysden said of guard Sean Owens, Jaworski and Millheim. “To have our ride together come to an end against Reading here, in this building, I have no problem with that. It’s unbelievable what they were able to accomplish during their careers.”
Reading’s Lonnie Walker lived up to his billing as a dominant threat finishing with 18 points, none more important than a thunderous slam that nearly brought down the Santander Arena to give Reading a 51-50 lead with 2:10 left. His tough bucket and finish kept the fans on their feet, making it 53-50 before an Isiah Cook steal and finish with the harm gave the Red Knights a 56-50 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“It means a lot,” Cook said. “They built a lot of momentum as the game went on. That was a tough team, they seem like they’ve been playing for years. I said during the timeouts, ‘We’re not going home. Not us. Not today. It starts with us.’ We had to figure it out, and we did.”
Cook was one of three Red Knights that figured in double digits, finishing with 10. Tyrone Nesby finished with a team-best 20 points, nine coming in the final quarter. His emphatic block on Owens late in the fourth was the finisher.
Reading will face the winner of District 11 champion Pocono Mountain West and District 1 third-place finisher Plymouth Whitemarsh on Saturday or Sunday at a time and location to be determined. Pocono Mountain West and PW’s contest was originally scheduled to open a tripleheader at Santander Arena but was postponed due to road conditions in the Pocono area.
The loss ends a historic season for Perkiomen Valley, which finished the year 23-7 overall. The Vikings won their first Pioneer Athletic Conference championship since the 2012-2013 season, obtained a No. 1 seed in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs for the first time in school history and won its first state playoff since the 1972 season.
It also ended the career of Jaworski, who will go down as one of the best two-sport athletes in Perkiomen Valley history. Following up a season on the gridiron where he caught the Mercury All-Area Player of the Year award followed by all-state honors, the senior captain finished the season averaging 22.2, good for second best in the PAC behind Boyertown’s Jerry Kapp. Jaworski, who obtained his first Division 1 offer from American University earlier this week, has been named as an All-Pioneer Athletic Conference first team member the past two seasons.
He, along with his teammates, spoke highly of his time in the orange and brown.
“We had a frontrunner for the state championship on the ropes for most of the game, in Reading,” Jaworski said. “They made a few more plays than us but to be in that situation, playing with Hogan as our 5-11 center and Owens, it showed how tough we were. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”
Also departing the Vikings team from this season are Owens and Millheim. Owens proved invaluable in the backcourt alongside Jaworski, all while earning All-Pioneer Liberty Division first team honors this season. Millheim, listed at 6-1, saved his best for PIAA play, finishing with an average of 14 ppg. All three took away more positives than anything from Thursday’s loss.
“It means a lot just to be in this situation,” Millheim said. “A few years ago we started from nowhere. We were 6-16 and now look at us. We finished 23-7 this year, that’s incredible. To be on this stage, against this team (Reading) was huge for our program.
“We came in, competed but ran out of gas. To be here playing with these guys is something I won’t forget.”