POTTSGROVE >> Before they laced up their sneakers for the first time in the blue and yellow, Upper Perkiomen’s Ryan Kendra and Liam Boyle were already immersed in a streak no player wanted to be a part of.
For two more years, they unwillingly added to it.
Now, after five straight seasons that saw a streak of 72 consecutive Pioneer Athletic Conference losses run, their class is the one to end it.
Boyle figured in on a game-high 19 points while Kendra and Will Walker both reached double figures as the Indians battled back from a fourth-quarter deficit before sealing the deal late in overtime with clutch free throw shooting en route to a 49-45 victory over Pottsgrove Thursday night.
The win is the first conference win for the Indians since they defeated Perkiomen Valley 59-56 on Jan. 19, 2011. Since then it’s been tough sledding for a team too often unable to put enough substantial runs together over the course of a game. Yet, this year there’s a different feel to the team which was validated last week after the Indians hung tight with defending PAC semifinalist Phoenixville in a 54-45 loss.
Now, it’s all over … to the relief of Boyle and the rest of the team.
“It’s awesome. That pressure is off of us,” Boyle, a junior, said. “We kept hearing, 71 .. 72. … Now it’s over.”
“We knew that if we could compete with them (Phoenixville), we could compete with anyone and get a win in the PAC,” Kendra, also a junior, added. “We know we have more wins in us, but we have to continue to work hard.”
This win was much like the previous five seasons — arduous.
Kendra was in foul trouble early, picking up two quick fouls before taking a seat for the remainder of the first half. He finished the half with zero points on an 0-for-1 shooting effort but was aided by the play of Boyle and Walker, who combined for 17 first-half points (Boyle 9, Walker 8) in taking a 21-16 into the break.
“It’s great when I can play my worst game and then my teammates pick me up and keep scoring and get the lead back for us,” Kendra said.
Pottsgrove awoke in the third, a 10-0 run highlighted by Steve Hein’s six points (nine total) to give the Falcons a 26-21 lead — one that remained intact until Kendra came alive in the fourth quarter.
Down 32-26, Kendra hit a tough pull-up jumper to cut into the lead and was then answered by a tough take by Pottsgrove’s Jayden Blakey at the other end. Kendra then earned a trip to the line — sinking both — before Boyle’s jumper cut the deficit to 34-32. Kendra’s 3-pointer from the corner a minute later gave the Indians it first lead since the start of the third, making it 35-34, before Curnew answered a few seconds later to make it 37-35. With Upper Perk up 39-37, Alex Salata (seven points) came away with a pivotal steal that led to a tough take to the rim to tie it at 39 with 10 seconds left, a missed 3-pointer sending the game to OT.
That’s where the Indians, Boyle and Kendra especially, took over. The team built a 43-40 lead before Boyle and Kendra sealed the deal from the stripe, Boyle sinking two with four seconds left to put the game out of reach.
“With all the fans that continue to come out, we’ve wanted to win one for them,” Boyle said. “They came out every single game last year and when we were freshmen. They knew we were losing, but they continued to show us some support. It was nice to get one for them.”
NOTES >> Nik Curnew finished with 14 points in the loss for Pottsgrove. … The Falcons shot 8-of-15 from the line, Upper Perkiomen 12-of-17. “I could go into a number of things that we could improve on, whether it be our free throw shooting, shooting from three, post-ups, and so on,” Pottsgrove head coach Jack Flanagan said. “Upper Perkiomen played better than us and they deserved to come out of here with a win.”