The eye in the sky didn’t lie.
Just ask Boyertown head girls basketball coach Jason Bieber.
Whether it was breaking down his own team or scouting an upcoming opponent, Bieber’s tedious game-film studies played a key role in lifting the Lady Bears to new heights this past season. It all came to fruition last week when Boyertown held up the program’s first ever PIAA Class 6A championship trophy following a 46-35 win over North Allegheny at the Giant Center in Hershey.
“Coach Bieber is definitely one of the most dedicated coaches around,” said standout senior Abby Kapp, “especially when it comes to preparing us for games (with) game film. His thoroughness really helped us prepare for the tough competition that we play, especially on the defensive end.”
His thorough approach was surely the reason the Lady Bears accumulated a 28-5 overall record (including a run of 20-1 over a two-month span) on the way to the Pioneer Athletic Conference and PIAA Class 6A titles.
The biggest adjustments oftentimes came after a loss, including the Lady Bears’ conference-opener against Methacton.
“Usually the day after we play a game, he sent us our film with comments and tips he adds in so we can watch our mistakes or our successes we made and be able to apply corrections at practice,” said senior guard Alli Marcus. “Throughout playoffs as soon as we found out who we would be playing, he would send us multiple films of our opponent and tell the starters our matchups which was extremely helpful because we would be able to watch and focus on our girl and how she plays as an individual.
“It was obvious that coach Bieber had really studied all of the films because he was always very prepared. He knew almost every offensive set of the other team, exactly how they played defense and even individual moves of the players.”
All the X’s and O’s aside, one of Bieber’s fondest game-film memories came well before this year’s crop of seniors had ever put on the black and red jerseys.
“It was the 2011 triple-overtime PAC championship game against Spring-Ford,” Bieber recalled during a phone interview on Friday afternoon. “In the film, you can see (now senior guard) Alli Marcus sitting along the sideline as a young kid watching the game.
“That to me always stood as proof,” he said. “These kids always wanted to be great. They looked up to Kelly (Furman) and Kaitlyn Eisenhard growing up, and now they had an opportunity to step into their shoes.”
That 2011 Boyertown team had previously gone the deepest into the state playoffs in program history — their season ending in the semifinals against Archbishop Carroll. Kaitlyn Eisenhard, then a sophomore, eventually graduated in 2013 as the program’s all-time leading scorer.
Flash forward to 2017 and the setting is eerily familiar.
Four-year starting wing Kapp surpassed Eisenhard’s all-time mark on her way to 1,671 career points. The Lady Bears blazed their way through the state playoffs on the shoulders of Bucknell-bound Kapp, who came up clutch late against Northampton in the quarterfinal round then sunk a jump shot with 18 seconds left to beat Cardinal O’Hara in the semifinal round.
It takes five fingers to make a fist, though, something Bieber knew all season long.
“You always knew Abby was going to get her 15, 20 points,” said Bieber, “but you never knew where the other points were coming from. Some nights it was Katie (Armstrong), others it was Alli Marcus. We had Kylie (Webb) score nine points in that championship game — that was huge. Tori Boalton made some plays and was our defensive stopper all season.
“Everyone had a role for us this season. Even the girls bench — they brought energy and stayed involved in every game. That made this team so much fun to coach and be a part of.”
Bieber’s own coaching career began at age 20 when he became a JV assistant coach at his hometown of Fleetwood High School. From there, he jumped around with various assistant positions over the years including a two-year stint with Boyertown before he took over his first head coaching job at Tulpehocken.
He took over the Boyertown head coach position in 2009 right on the heels of Mike Ludwig. For his career, Bieber’s spent a combined 12 years as a head coach (eight at Boyertown) and eight as an assistant.
“It’s been a lot of years of coaching, but I wouldn’t trade any of it away,” said Bieber.
In addition to coaching, Bieber spends time as a referee and also runs Athletes For Better Education (AFBE), a program that organizes competitive programs, camps and educational activities which draws players from all around the world.
Through everything he’s accomplished in his career, easily one of the most fulfilling moments came last Friday night.
As he stood to the side at the Giant Center that night and watched his team host the championship plaque in front of the Boyertown faithful — Bieber was filled with a sense of hope.
Of course, the team will need to fill in the void that will be left by Kapp, Marcus and Armstrong to go along with three other seniors. That surely won’t be an easy task.
However, mixed in with the Boyertown faithful that night was a busload from Boyertown’s Junior High School.
Somewhere in the stands, the next Abby Kapp, the next Alli Marcus looked on with wide eyes as their heroes celebrated the biggest wins of the scholastic careers. Although it wasn’t a triple-overtime thriller, it was one that will stick with the next wave of Lady Bears on their way through the ranks.
“That was a special moment,” said Bieber, “not just for our team but for the next generation. Now they can build from that.”