BOYERTOWN >> In case you haven’t heard — or haven’t driven up East Philadelphia Avenue the past few days — the Boyertown High School girls basketball team will be putting it all on the line Friday night.
With the entire Boyertown community behind them, both figuratively and literally, the Lady Bears will take the ride up to the Giant Center in Hershey where they’ll face North Allegheny at 6 p.m. for the PIAA Class 6A Championship.
“It’s really amazing,” said standout senior Abby Kapp, who is bound for Bucknell University next year. “I don’t think a lot of us realize how big of a deal this is to the community.”
All week, the streets of Boyertown have been lined with signs, banners and words of inspiration, including a hard-to-miss, 20-foot long display in front of the Body-Borneman Insurance building reading ‘Good Luck Lady Bears Basketball’.
Inside the walls of the high school, the excitement and spirit remains just as high.
In the days leading up, the softball team decorated the basketball teams’ locker room. As of Thursday, the school’s athletic office confirmed the sale of nearly 400 student tickets to hop aboard the fan bus and make the trip to cheer the girls on. Prior to the team’s 9 a.m. departure Friday morning, members of the girls basketball team will march down the hallways and out onto the bus on the heels of the school band.
“I’m honestly touched by all the support we’re getting,” said senior guard Alli Marcus, a Albright commit. “It’s been so much fun all week.”
“So many people who haven’t been out to our games all season are planning to make the trip to Hershey just to support us,” added Kapp. “It means a lot to all of us.”
Now it’s up to the Bears to give the fans what they’re hoping and expecting to see.
Boyertown, the No. 6 seed out of District 1, enters the program’s first state championship appearance fresh off Kapp’s game-winning jumper during Monday’s semifinal win over powerhouse Cardinal O’Hara. Overall, the team sports a 27-5 record.
The only thing standing between the Lady Bears and hoisting the championship trophy is North Allegheny, the top seed from District 7 sporting a 28-1 overall record. The Tigers are fresh off a controversial win over Souderton in Monday’s semifinal after a late foul call with 0.9 seconds left sent Rachel Martindale to the free throw line to close it out.
The sophomore guard Martindale leads North Allegheny at 12 points per game to go along with six rebounds and four assists while 5-11 Stony Brook commit Hailey Zeise scores about 11 points per game as the team’s lone senior.
Since a 50-47 loss against Pine Richland — their lone loss of the season — North Allegheny has rattled off 18 straight wins, including state playoff wins over fellow WPIAL squads Hempfield, Mount Lebanon, Penn Hills and District 1’s Souderton.
On paper, North Allegheny certainly holds the height advantage — all five starters list at 5-8 and above while Boyertown boasts just one six-footer in Kapp. That aside, head coach Jason Bieber likes what he sees.
“We match up well,” he said Friday, shortly after the team’s film session. “If they’re hitting their shots, we could be in for some trouble, no doubt. But there are definitely parts of the game we feel we have an advantage.”
One advantage will be the Bears’ road to Hershey.
Boyertown opened states with a 50-35 win over three-time defending state champion Cumberland Valley in a game that played plenty closer than the final score indicated.
After that, there was no easy path.
The Bears squeaked past Garnet Valley, 53-48 in the second round, then utilized Kapp’s game-winning 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining to claim a 56-55 win over Disrtict 11’s Northampton. A few days later, Kapp was the hero again — knocking down an 18-foot jump shot with 1.1 seconds remaining to beat Cardinal O’Hara 39-37 in the semifinals.
“We’ve played against teams with tougher one-on-one matchups,” said Kapp, who was tasked with guarding Northampton big Aja Blount last weekend. “Every person on the team has contributed in some way for us just to get here.”
Always an advantage is Kapp, who has averaged over 15 points per game for the season. She’s elevated her game at states, scoring almost 19 points per game during the PIAA playoffs.
Another advantage will be Katie Armstrong, whose emergence this season has been key to the Bears’ run. The senior guard is averaging just over 11 points per game during the state playoffs, including a season-high 18 in the Bears’ quarterfinal round win against Northampton.
Junior guard Tori Boalton came up with a pair of huge stops in the final moments against Northampton, then dazzled on the offensive end on the way to 10 points against Cardinal O’Hara a couple days later.
Kylie Webb scored 12 against Northampton and has been a rock on the defensive end, often outsized on the low block. Marcus’ poise as point guard has been on display all season — her 15 points against Garnet Valley were a team-high.
“We’ve always thought that we had the ability to get here,” said Bieber of the state final, “and now we’ve accomplished that goal. I think once we walk into the Giant Center, that’s when the girls will realize it.
“We’ve finally we’ve made it.”