KT Armstrong and the rest of her senior teammates stood on the Liacouras Center court hours before tipoff.
No staff were yet at their stations, no media members or fans had filtered in. The gym was empty.
The feeling: surreal.
The moment: symbolic.
Armstrong had spent countless hours throughout the summer and fall months perfecting her game with an audience of one, and now all of that came full circle in the biggest game in Perkiomen Valley girls basketball history.
Like she had done all season, Armstrong made sure the Vikings took the next step.
The St. Joseph’s commit saved her best performance for her final season, leading the Vikings to a series of firsts that included the team’s first-ever District 1-AAAA championship, first PIAA-AAAA playoff win and first Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, all while totaling more than 1,500 points for her high school career.
For that, Armstrong earns the title of 2015-2016 Mercury All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Armstrong succeeds Boyertown’s Abby Kapp (2014-2015) and Spring-Ford’s Sammy Stipa (2013-2014) as Player of the Year. The senior had previously finished as a first-team member last season.
“It’s exciting,” Armstrong said. “All your hard work in the season and prior to that has shown to have paid off. I’d have to thank my coaches and my teammates for helping me get here.
“It feels like it’s the cherry on top of a season where we made a lot of history. It definitely feels good.”
Two seasons ago, Perkiomen Valley struggled mightily in a six-win season.
Last season, the Vikings exceeded expectations and made the PAC-10 championship and advanced to the second round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs.
This season, not taking anyone by surprise, Armstrong made sure the Vikings took the next – and final – step.
Led by Armstrong’s 16.1 ppg (fourth in the PAC-10), the Vikings blitzed through the PAC-10 schedule, compiling a 12-1 league record before meeting Boyertown in the PAC-10 final.
Frustrated by the Bears’ vaunted defense a season prior in the title game, Armstrong made quick work of the Bears, scoring a game-high 12 points in leading the team to a 45-25 victory for the school’s first PAC-10 championship in school history.
Armstrong continued to shine through the district playoffs, scoring more than 15 points in all but one game, leading up to the biggest moment in PV girls basketball history, a date with Downingtown East in the District 1-AAAA final at Temple’s Liacouras Center.
“I’ll always remember this,” she reflected. “We walked in with the cheerleaders through the back entrance at Temple and walked past the gym. The coaches were telling us to get ready in the locker room but the seniors walked in the gym to see what it was like. We were like a group of little kids. We walked in and were like ‘Oh my gosh, this is huge,’ and we started to put it on our Snapchat story. We got a team picture and we just wanted to stay in there. The gym was empty and it just looked huge.
“That was when I knew that we deserved to be there.”
The rest was history. Armstrong went off for 24 points including three 3-pointers as the Vikings dominated Downingtown throughout in a 56-41 victory for a once-unthinkable District 1-AAAA championship.
“Sophomore year we only won six games, I couldn’t imagine winning a PAC-10 championship let alone a District 1 championship,” Armstrong said. “It just seemed impossible. We, along with Coach (John) Strawoet, put in so much work and time and effort and totally turned the team around.”
There was no championship hangover as Armstrong led the team in points, scoring 16 in the school’s PIAA-AAAA victory (60-50 over District 3’s Red Lion) before the season, and her career, came to an abrupt end with a wire-to-wire 55-52 loss to North Penn in the state second round.
A career highlighted by a 1,500-plus point total, an All-State Third Team Selection and a selection to the Pennsylvania All-Star Team, which pitted her against Maryland in the 40th Annual Pennsylvania vs. Maryland All-Star game on April 9.
“It was awesome,” Armstrong said. “Reflecting back on the season, where we went and how much progress we made throughout the year was really cool. With that group of girls, they are really awesome. There are some regrets: I wish we would have went farther in states, but you can’t really ask for more than winning a PAC-10 Championship and a District 1 championship.
“Our girls really worked hard in the offseason, got to open gyms and made sure we got into the weightroom. It was a lot of hard work and I think it showed in our games. Our defense was extremely disciplined and I think that helped us progress.”
Progress into the best girls basketball team Perkiomen Valley has ever had … a fact that hasn’t sunk in for Armstrong and probably won’t for some time.
“It’s really cool to think about,” Armstrong said. “Obviously we made a lot of history but we can’t look back on it now since it just happened. This team, just all the members, how everyone played such an important role, I won’t ever forget.”