Upper Perkiomen turns to future, falls to Perkiomen School in season finale

RED HILL >> The doors at Upper Perkiomen’s high school gymnasium swing in both directions.

Any player can enter at their own will; likewise, anyone can leave at any point.

Yet even throughout a 20-loss season, the doors needed to only go one way: inward.

The Upper Perkiomen girls basketball team put a cap on yet another disappointing winter season on Friday night. Their latest and final matchup — a 39-31 loss against neighboring rival Perkiomen School — dropped the Tribe’s season record to 1-21 overall mixed in with an 0-10 run in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division.

Upper Perk’s season comes to a close on a 14-game losing streak, the Tribe’s lone win coming against Lincoln Leadership Academy in mid-December.

Upper Perkiomen junior Sierra Kelly scored 12 points and grabbed 20 rebounds on Friday night. (Thomas Nash – DFM)

Despite all the blowout losses — they were defeated by at least 20 points in 18 games on the year — not a single member of the Tribe checked out early.

“Not one girl on this team gave up on one another,” said Upper Perk head coach Greg Swavely. “I’m proud of these girls. No matter how hard things got this season, they kept fighting up until the very end.”

The same can be said of Friday night’s game.

Upper Perk seemed to answer every run the Panthers (5-4 Tri-County League, 7-9 overall) put together throughout. Trailing 9-2 midway through the first, Upper Perk answered with a 9-2 run over their own to make it 11-11 after the first quarter.

Senior Hannah Chiesa scored a game-high 13 points which included a 3-pointer during the first quarter while Helena Tang had 12 points and seven steals for Perk School. Nicolette Ciocari scored 10 points and grabbed 11 boards.

Not a bad showing for a team that’s gearing up for next week’s Tri-County League playoffs after the opening round was postponed from Thursday.

“This was definitely a good test for us,” said first-year head coach Nikki Duggan. “It was a physical game … there was definitely more of an edge because of the town rivalry. Our girls played up to it.”

Perk School dominated possession over the final three minutes while clinging on to a 34-29 lead. The Panthers shot 5-for-11 during that span, but found solace on the defensive end where they created several key turnovers and contested every Upper Perk shot attempt.

Perk will open up the TCL playoffs Monday against Renaissance Academy.

“I know our girls are anxious for that, but hopefully they can build off what we did here tonight,” Duggan added.

Upper Perk’s promising junior center Sierra Kelly was dominant in the post during the second half where she racked up eight of her 12 points to go along with 20 rebounds on the night despite battling the double-team. Kaitlyn Mundy finished with 13 points.

With her junior season officially in the rearview, Kelly was quick to go into reflection mode during the postgame.

“Wow, we’ve come a long way since our first practice,” she said. “We came into that practice and we knew this season was gonna be a battle. Our team has come such a long way, though.

“I know our record doesn’t really show it, but our team has so much potential. I think we started to realize it toward the end of the year.”

Upper Perk has now put together consecutive one-win seasons and hasn’t won a conference game since January of 2015. All that, and the Tribe has still stuck together.

“Our coaches do a great job of motivating us,” Kelly said. “Even after losses, we stick together and trust one another. We take everything as a team and have each other’s backs.”

Upper Perk will graduate just one senior from this winter’s program — Jasmine Dupee, who finished with six points. Although the season featured many more valleys than peaks in Red Hill, the sun may be just starting to rise again as several members of the team will return with valuable experience.

Call it a rebuild, a revamp, even a restructure. Whatever it may be, Swavely made it clear that he walks away from the season with an immense amount of pride.

“I honestly don’t care what the record is,” said Swavely. “These girls came to practice everyday, they worked their tails off. And they want to win. As long as they bring that attitude, I’m proud to be their coach.”

NOTES >> On their Senior Night, Perkiomen School honored Chiesa, Ciocari, Tang, Halle Brown and Destiny Du.

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