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Perkiomen Valley keeps pace in Liberty, fends off Owen J. Roberts 58-48

GRATERFORD >> If Perkiomen Valley’s girls’ basketball team competed in the NBA, chances are they’d have rested some starters Thursday night.

Playing their seventh game in the past 11 days, the Vikings (5-1 Liberty, 8-1 PAC, 11-4 overall) overcame fatigue to top Owen J. Roberts (2-3, 5-3, 8-6) on Senior Night by a final score of 58-48, completing a season sweep of the Wildcats and remaining a half-game behind Liberty Division-leading Spring-Ford.

The Vikings’ inside duo of Megan Jonassen and Taylor Hamm has garnered plenty of attention over the past few years – and for good reason. But Thursday night, fellow senior Alex Blomstrom was the driving force behind PV’s offense, tallying 16 points including four 3-pointers.

“I’ve been working on driving to the basket, getting to the line more,” said Blomstrom, “but outside shooting has always been the foundation of my game.”

Perkiomen Valley’s Alex Blomstrom gets into the lane and scores a basket against Owen J. Roberts Thursday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The game featured a total of 42 foul shots, as a tightly called game restricted both teams’ ability to get into the flow of their offenses. Both teams converted 67 percent of their free throws.

A methodical start gave way to an explosive first quarter for the home team. Jonassen broke the ice with a short bank shot at 5:08, igniting a 19-point quarter for the hosts highlighted by a five-point sequence that saw Taylor Hamm convert a layup through contact. Hamm missed the ensuing free throw, but Jonassen got the offensive board and found Kelly Owens for her second three-pointer of the quarter. The series saw PV extend its lead from 12-7 to 17-7.

Blomstrom caught fire in the second quarter, finding the mark from long range on three occasions to give her 11 first-half points. Defensively, the duo of Hamm and Jonassen forced OJR to generate their offense from the outside. Diana Rantz and Olivia LeClaire combined for 14 of the Wildcats’ 16 first-half points, as the Vikings took a 14-point lead into the break.

OJR would close within four in the third quarter, thanks to four consecutive free throws from Rantz after a PV technical foul. LeClaire and Brooke Grennawald converted layups off PV turnovers in the final minutes of the stanza as the Wildcats amassed 19 points for the quarter and entered the fourth down only five.

But Blomstrom opened the final period with her fourth three-pointer, extending the Vikings’ lead to eight – the closest the game would be from that point. The Wildcats were plagued by late foul trouble, losing two players by the middle of the final quarter.

Perkiomen Valley celebrated its Senior Night Thursday, honoring six young women who will graduate this spring. Megan Moore, Jonassen, Hamm, Grace Lindberger, Blomstrom, and Brynne Wacker were recognized prior to the opening tip. The class holds a special place for coach John Strawoet, who started at Perk Valley in 2014-2015, when this year’s seniors were freshmen.

“These are the kids I started with,” said Strawoet. “So obviously to be winning with this group is special, but even more importantly, these kids give me everything they have every day. I’m really proud of this group tonight.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia Leclaire pump-fakes as Perkiomen Valley’s Megan Jonassen flies by during the first half Thursday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Strawoet added that the packed schedule – thanks in part to snow-related cancellations over the past couple weeks – has been a challenge, but the experience will serve his team well in the long run.

“We went down to Jefferson U, and we played (undefeated) Archbishop Ryan,” Strawoet recalled. “We led the whole way, then at the end we lost our legs (a 51-48 defeat last Sunday).”

“But that happens on your fifth game in seven days. We learn from it, and we improve.”

It doesn’t get much easier for PV from here. The next seven days will go a long way toward deciding the team’s conference and playoff standing.

Saturday, the Vikings play perennial state contender Central Dauphin East in a neutral-site showdown at Boyertown. They return to Boyertown to battle the defending state champion Bears Tuesday night before facing off with undefeated Spring-Ford Thursday in a game that will likely determine the PAC Liberty Division regular-season crown.

The Wildcats – playing a back-to-back of their own after a hard-fought 43-41 victory over Pope John Paul II Wednesday – were led by Rantz’s game-high 17 points, including an impressive 8-for-8 from the foul line.

At the start of the week, OJR stood 19th in the District 1-6A power rankings (top 24 teams qualify for districts.) A victory over 10th-ranked Perkiomen Valley would’ve gone a long way toward solidifying their eventual spot in the playoffs, but coach Jeremy Mellon says the team’s goals are all still attainable.

“We’re young – a lot of sophomores on this team, and games like this are a great experience for us,” said Mellon. “And last night, we had a physical, two-point game against PJP.”

“We weren’t good in the first half, but then we competed after halftime. We showed improvement. This could’ve been a 25-30-point loss, but this team didn’t quit. Once we learn to play together, we could be pretty dangerous.”

Notes >> Jonassen and Hamm each scored 13 for victorious PV – numbers OJR coach Mellon can handle. “I’ve seen that duo put up 50 against some teams,” he said. “I like where we are defensively against them.” Kelly Owens added 10 points for Perk Valley. One night after pouring in a career-high 26 points, OJR sophomore Olivia LeClaire got back into double figures with 10, matching the total of classmate and starting center Brooke Grennawald.

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