Perkiomen Valley, Spring-Ford programs will meet again for PAC title

NORRISTOWN >> Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford will meet for a chance for a Pioneer Athletic Conference title.

Sounds repetitive, doesn’t it?

Tuesday night will mark the fifth time since fall 2015 the Rams’ and Vikings’ sports programs will square off for a league title, this time with the 2016-2017 Pioneer Athletic Conference boys basketball title on the line. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Norristown High School.

It will mark the second straight PAC final between the two schools — the first title going the way of Spring-Ford via a 54-48 overtime victory that was made memorable for the remarkable play of Rams guard Matt Gnias and PV’s Justin Jaworski in the late stages of the fourth quarter along with a technical foul called on the PV student section with less than a second remaining.

That’s gone and forgotten about by both squads – and rightfully so – as the two teams enter Tuesday night’s championship game each with different makeup and swagger.

The constant for both teams, however: continued success.

“Neither program wants to give an inch,” Spring-Ford head coach Chris Talley said. “That motivates myself and (Perkiomen Valley) coach (Mike) Poysden just to work harder. At the top you taste that success, you want to stay there. We want to keep this going and we want to continue to be the ones everyone is chasing.”

“Nothing is promised because of what happened the year before,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Mike Poysden said. “I think (another PAC final appearance) is a validation of the team’s success and hard work that we’ve put in since Day 1. This year we wanted to go out and play tough teams, compete well and put ourselves in a good district spot. We’ve done that up to this point. Now we have a matchup against a team that is just as hungry as us. It should be a great one.”

Spring-Ford enters the title game after grinding out a 57-46 victory over PAC Frontier champion Upper Merion in the semifinal round. Chucky Drummond, who’s deft touch from beyond the arc paved the way to him having a game-high 24 points, and the play from junior forward Austin Hokanson (16 points) led the Rams, who are searching for their third PAC title in four seasons and sixth overall.

Drummond, who is averaging nearly 16 points per game in his last four outings, may be able to lead the Rams to it.

“His confidence is sky high and he’s being aggressive,” Talley said of Drummond. “He’s been able to take our offense and put it on his back a little bit the last few games. We hope that continues.”

Ryan Fitzpatrick enters as the team’s leading scorer (11.4 ppg) while sophomores Noah Baker and Robert Bobeck have become difference-makers along with the 6-4 Hokanson against a small PV lineup. They’ll look to wreak havoc in the paint for a Rams squad riding a four-game winning streak.

“Hokanson, Bobeck and Baker are three that have gotten substantially better and it’s getting noticed,” Talley said. “Their improvement and their confidence is at an all-time high. At the beginning of the season, they were trying to fit in and now they know they’re contributors and want to get better.”

All eyes will be on Perkiomen Valley’s Jaworski, who enters Tuesday averaging 21.4 ppg. — second-best in the PAC behind Boyertown’s Jerry Kapp. Jaworski finished with a game-high 31 points, including a 15-for-16 effort from the line, as the Vikings dispatched Norristown in the semifinals, 60-43. The 6-0 senior’s play, along with the continued standout showings of Sean Owens and the emergence of 6-1 forward Hogan Millheim has earned the Vikings the No. 1 seed in the upcoming District 1 Class 6A playoffs and a chance to win their first PAC crown since the 2013 season.

“Justin is who he is,” Poysden said. “He’ll know when to turn it on and when to turn it up. There’s an incredible calm and leadership that he demonstrates. Passing, screening, guarding what is usually the tougher covers on the other team, our success is built around doing all that he does.”

Ridge Pike Rivalry Strengthening

Spring-Ford’s sports programs boasted a 3-0 record against Perkiomen Valley in last year’s contests that had title implications, winning the de facto PAC football championship, the boys basketball championship and the softball championship. PV has reclaimed a win this season by defeating the Rams at Coach McNelly Stadium in what ended up being the battle for the Liberty Division championship.

Meanwhile on the hardwood, Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford will have won four of the past five PAC titles after tomorrow’s contest.

“I think first and foremost our feeder program is one of the best, if not the best, in the area,” Talley said. “Just the leadership and organization and the amount of kids that we get is awesome. They start that at an early age and they pump out some pretty good players.”

“We have excellent coaches across the high school. Football coach (Chad) Brubaker has built a culture here and (softball) coach (Tim) Hughes has been doing it for years. The constant between all three is the hard work that the athletes put in, especially in the offseason. We’re doing this all year long, it’s not just November to February. The kids are lifting all year around and we’re seeing the benefits.”

“Leadership is a huge part to our success,” Poysden said. “When I took the job give years ago, one of the first words I said to the 85 guys in the gym for the interest meeting was that PV basketball wasn’t really relevant, in the district and in the league. It had to become a year-round commitment to getting better, and we did that. The first year we got hot and we saw a talented team that came into their own. What stuck behind and has continued has been the work ethic. Our players’ commitment to the offseason has a lot to do with our success during the season. Multi-sport athletes are making time for teammates, summer league games, skill development and weight training. Our younger guys see that, and that’s what they walk into.

“Our culture has become an expectation.”

Key Matchup

Spring-Ford’s bigs against PV’s not-so bigs >> Hokanson, Baker and Bobeck will “be a handful” according to PV’s Poysden as all three’s length and size pose a matchup problem for a PV squad that puts out a small lineup — Millheim, at 6-1 being their lone big.

“Hokanson, Baker and Bobeck have really come into their own the second half of the season,” Poysen said. “They are much different players than they were in the beginning. We can’t get too comfortable if we get a few stops. A few stops against Spring-Ford is meaningless. We just have to keep being creative with coverage packages and rotations.

“If there’s a player who has embodied what ‘most improved’ is supposed to be, it’s him,” Poysden said of Millheim. “What he’s been able to do giving up size, playing through contract, being patient to his catches, and his willingness to pass have been keys for us this year.”

Three isn’t easy

Perkiomen Valley has won the past two contests over the Rams: 74-46 on Dec. 22 and 65-58 on Jan. 27. Spring-Ford, despite the two losses, has a major positive from those two games: Confidence.

“We improved,” Talley said. “The first time it was a 30-point spread and the second time around especially in that second half our kids realized we can play with them and can compete with them. Mentally that will go a long way.”


Perkiomen Valley wins 65-60.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply