The gym erupted and nearly every person in the bleachers, on the bench, on the court was still buzzing.
Except the person who made it explode.
Sandwiched between two of the most unforgettable moments of Boyertown senior Abby Kapp’s illustrious final high school basketball season, there was a moment that won’t be most memorable, but it might be the most telling.
It was the closing seconds of Boyertown’s PIAA Class 6A semifinal against Cardinal O’Hara on March 20, moments after Kapp, a 6-0 forward, expertly backed her defender from the top of the key to the free-throw line, stepped back and rose up with textbook form and a signature flick of the wrist to swish her jumper and give the Bears a 39-37 lead with 1.1 seconds remaining.
Yet rather than basking in the glory and soaking in the electricity of the crowd, Kapp noticeably refocused, gathering her teammates at midcourt to give an effusive final pep talk before making the final defensive stop that would send the Bears to the state championship game.
The sequence illustrated many of Kapp’s characteristics: her focus on the task instead of the triumph, her poise in the most pressurized situations and her emergence as a confident leader in voice and play.
With four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Kapp shared a brief interaction — just a hand signal — with her father, Jerry, in the stands. It was his way of letting Abby know it was her time to shine.
“I’ll always remember that. He does that signal to me and I know it’s my time to step up,” Abby Kapp said. “It was back and forth the whole game but I knew in the back of my head the whole time what I had to do if the situation presented itself.”
The pinnacle came a game later when Kapp and company charged ahead of North Allegheny in the second half of the state final for a 46-35 victory to be crowned the first PIAA Class 6A champions, and bringing Boyertown its first state basketball title.
It was the culmination of a dream run for Kapp in a season where she became Boyertown’s all-time leading scorer and led the team to a Pioneer Athletic Conference championship and state crown.
“Everything that we accomplished, I couldn’t have written it better,” Kapp said. “State playoffs, PAC championship, breaking the (Boyertown scoring) record, my whole season I couldn’t have asked for a better senior season with my teammates and coaches. Everything was picture perfect.”
Her postseason accolades include Pa. Sports Writers All-State first team in Class 6A and her second Mercury All-Area Player of the Year after winning the award as a sophomore.
The Bucknell recruit averaged 15.5 points per game in Boyertown’s 28-5 season, and was at her best in the Bears’ incredible state-playoff run.
Prior to that, Kapp surpassed the Boyertown program’s scoring record of 1,420 set by 2013 graduate Kaitlyn Eisenhard in a 61-39 win over Perkiomen Valley on Jan. 24. Kapp capped her career with 1,671 points and 1,080 rebounds.
Kapp will go down as one of the area’s greatest scorers, despite never being a “me first” player on the offense end. She was the one always looking to make the right play while being a key piece of Boyertown’s active defense.
For all the on-court success, Kapp places just as much importance on her off-court accomplishments, and has a knack for putting her sports life in perspective.
“If you don’t have good character, it means nothing. Having good character and caring for my teammates is really important to me,” Kapp said. “I don’t want to set a bad example. I always tell myself, ‘(Basketball) is nothing. If you’re not a good person, it means nothing.’ I always try to be the best person I can be and have it show on the court and off it.”
She was a member of the PAC All-Academic team this winter and feels basketball has aided her in the classroom.
“I think I’ve had academic success because I’ve learned so much through basketball. You have to work hard to get to where you want to be. I think it applies to schoolwork,” Kapp said. “Having basketball has helped me become a better student in that way.”
In her sophomore season, Kapp and the Bears were PAC champions and reached the PIAA playoffs. As a junior, Boyertown was upset in the opening round of the District 1 playoffs, which served as motivation for her final season.
“After we got upset in the first round of districts last year, Abby and Alli Marcus were the first two to come to me and say, ‘That’s not going to happen again. We’re going to refocus and get together,’” said Boyertown coach Jason Bieber. “It was her deciding, ‘This is my senior year and I’m going to do something special.’”
“This season I knew that my role was to be a leader on the court, and often verbally, and by example,” said Kapp, who focused on her 3-point shooting and ability to get to the basket on the dribble in the offseason. “I knew when we were in tough situations my coaches would want me to have to ball in my hands in those pressure situations because they trusted me, I trusted myself and my teammates had trust in me.”
Kapp’s status as the “Queen of Clutch” began in the Pioneer Athletic Conference final with her game-sealing layup with 42 seconds remaining to give the Bears a 47-44 victory over Methacton on Feb. 15.
That was just the beginning, even when a state championship run seemed improbable after the Bears entered the District 1 playoffs as the No. 2 seed but finished sixth. Nevertheless, Kapp always believed the work ethic of the team could carry it to new heights.
“In the games in states, we just played really well. It’s not like we got struck by lightning and all of a sudden became good or found a pair of magic sneakers. We always had it in there,” Kapp said. “It wasn’t just one person that started playing good, it was all five of us on the court being in sync.”
Boyertown knocked off three-time defending champion Cumberland Valley 50-35 in the first round and got a 28-point performance from Kapp in a 53-48 second-round win over Garnet Valley. She stole the show with her game-winning baskets in the closing seconds of wins over Northampton in the quarterfinals and reigning runner-up Cardinal O’Hara in the semifinals in games where she scored 14 and 17 points, respectively.
“I never knew how intense the state games were going to get and we really had some intense games, but I just took the opportunities and tried to make the most of them,” she said. “I do like (high-intensity situations). I don’t shy away from those moments.”
In the state final on March 24, Kapp’s star shined brightest with a first-half double-double — she finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds — before teammates Marcus, Katie Armstrong, Kylie Webb and Tori Boalton found their scoring touches in the second half to overpower North Allegheny, 46-35.
“I don’t think it would have been possible for me to imagine how amazing it was,” she said. “To accomplish that goal as a high school basketball player, it’s an amazing thing to be able to say.”