FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> On a night where their leading scorer was all but neutralized, it was the efforts of Perkiomen Valley’s smallest player that made the largest impact.
Senior guard Kevin Bernabe tied a game-high 18 points to lead the Vikings to a 56-46 win over Pioneer Athletic Conference rival Methacton during the opening round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs on Friday night.
“That’s what you’ve gotta do,” said Bernabe, who is listed at 5-7. “Nobody believed in us because Methacton just won the PAC (title) and they’re on top of the world. We knew we had to obey our defensive schemes and run our offense to perfection. If we could do that, we’d be fine.”
Bernabe served his typical role as the team’s primary ball-handler, but was handcuffed in a way as standout junior Tyler Strechay wasn’t there for the bailout pass. Strechay, the team’s leading scorer, was up against a face-guard from Methacton’s Noah Kitaw most of the game.
No matter. The skilled guard Bernabe and Zach Krause (14 points) stepped in and filled in the blanks.
“If they’re gonna try and deny our best player, we’ve got to have other guys step up,” said Bernabe. “I felt like it was my job tonight. We had guys step up and make plays.”
With the win, No. 23-seeded Perk Valley (13-10 overall), which missed out on the six-team PAC playoffs altogether via a tiebreaker, will face No. 7 Norristown next Tuesday at 7 p.m. with a berth in the PIAA tournament on the line. Just three days after claiming the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, No. 10 Methacton’s season comes to a close at 18-8 overall. It was the second season in a row that the Warriors were ousted in the opening round of districts.
Krause sparked a key 8-2 run with a pair of 3-pointers to close out the second quarter with a 29-24 Perk Valley lead.
From there, the Vikings didn’t look back.
PV held the Warriors to a pedestrian three points — a converted and-one basket from junior David Duda — in the third quarter before pulling away and sealing it in the final frame. Bernabe scored 10 points in the final quarter, including a full-court inbound heave from Strechay in the final moments to put a bow on the night. For the game, Strechay and Conner McShea scored eight points apiece.
Although he wouldn’t admit to playing with an underdog mentality, Perk Valley head coach Michael Poysden said his team was motivated by its close losses this season.
“It sort of felt like we had a chip on our shoulder coming into this one because of all the one-point, two-point, three-point losses we’ve had,” said Poysden. “That was one of the things we talked about during one of the timeouts. We said ‘Listen, we’ve been exactly right here. We can’t start turning the ball over when teams start pressing us. We’ve got to take care of the ball.’
“We really grinded this one out down the stretch.”
For the year, Perk Valley lost six games by less than three points. Had a couple late possessions swung their way in those losses, says Poysden, the team may have brought a whole different charisma into the postseason.
Bernabe scored 10 points in the final quarter while Krause hit a clutch 3-pointer late to follow up an and-one finish from Methacton’s Brett’s Eberly.
Methacton’s leading scorer, Duda, finished with 18 points though he was shadowed all game by Andrew Light. With the senior guard Light playing ball-deny all night, Duda could hardly establish an offensive rhythm coming off his 38-point performance against Spring-Ford in the PAC title game.
“None of that shows up in the boxscore,” said Poysden, “but what Andrew Light was able to do against a shooter like that was a huge help for us.
“He takes pride in that responsibility — he loves to be tapped for that. He watches him over and over and he did a great job for us.”
Eberly scored seven while typically dominant 6-9 center Jeff Woodward was held to just five points.
Ice PAC >> Hoisting the PAC Championship plaque hasn’t spelled success in the district playoffs for Methacton this school year.
After a first-round bye in last fall’s field hockey District One Class 3A playoffs, the previously unbeaten Lady Warriors fell to Central Bucks South, 2-1 on a penalty stroke to end their season.
Close to Home >> Once again, Perk Valley won’t have an all-too-far commute for their second round game against PAC foe Norristown.
“A known quantity,” said Poysden. “They know us and we know them. We just have to go and handle their pressure — we know they’re going to bring their best.”
The Vikings and Eagles split their regular season matchups this winter: the Eagles winning 45-36 to start the New Year while the Vikings got one back with a 47-33 win late last month.
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