30-point fourth quarter lifts Cheltenham past Perkiomen Valley, into district semfinals

GRATERFORD >> No way they were coming back.

At least that’s what Cheltenham junior shooting guard Jack Clark told his team after Perkiomen Valley went on a tear, decreasing a double-digit lead to just three at the end of three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, the Panthers made sure Clark didn’t become a liar.

Ahmad Bickley went perfect from the free-throw line and scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the final quarter as No. 8 Cheltenham used a 30-point fourth quarter to overcome No. 1 Perkiomen Valley 64-53 in the District 1 Class 6A quarterfinals Friday night.

“We didn’t want them to come back, not one bit,” Clark said regarding Perkiomen Valley’s spirited comeback. “We needed to give 100 percent then or we should have just gone home.”

Cheltenham did just that. Bickley, a 5-10, 150-pound guard, was the main reason.

The junior was nearly unguardable in the fourth quarter, his pull-up jump shot doing its best to knock down Perkiomen Valley blow-by-blow. He started the final eight minutes with an incredible right-handed finish at the rim before adding free throws and a nasty pull-up ‘J’ to lead the Panthers on a 10-3 run to extend the lead back to double digits at 44-34. He then sealed the deal late, going a 10-for-10 at the line to counteract Perkiomen Valley’s Justin Jaworski, who hit for 19 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter. 

Cheltenham’s Ahmad Bickley gets a shot over Perkiomen Valley’s Sean Owens during the first half Friday. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Bickley, who wears an even No. 2, was spectacular in the even-numbered quarters, hitting for 22 of his 24 in the second and fourth quarter. His 10-for-11 effort from the line marked efficiency, same with the Panthers as they finished 19-of-20 from the line in the win.

“Once I see my first one go in, I just think the rest are,” Bickley said. “The pull-up jump shot I worked on all summer. It was a stop and pull-up, there was nothing they can do about it. All the work in the summer paid off today.”

Clark, who had two thunderous slams in the game, finished with 18 points.

The Panthers, who previously lost to Perkiomen Valley in their District 1-AAAA opener last season 49-45, will face Coatesville in the district semifinals Tuesday night at Temple’s Liacouras Center at 7:30 p.m. Cheltenham hasn’t won a district title since 1968.

“They wanted their revenge,” Jaworski said. “They reminded me of us wanting Spring-Ford. Tough loss but we have to give them credit. They played well.”

“Some people say this game was about revenge,” Clark said. “I just thought it was another win that got us closer to Temple and Villanova.

“It’s a great feeling (being close to a district title). “Since we basically haven’t won in so many decades, it’s a great feeling that our team right now can make something happen.”

With their state playoff status already affirmed, the loss sends Perkiomen Valley into the 5th-8th playback on Tuesday against No. 5 North Penn. The Vikings held even with Cheltenham in the first quarter before falling behind by 14 (30-16) at the half. Jaworski was contained well by the pesky Bickley, who was in his back pocket throughout the first three quarters.

“On Tuesday, right after we won, I was thinking about Jaworski,” Bickley said. “I watched tape on him from Tuesday until today at 5 p.m. I watched what he did. Early in the game he got some backdoor plays on me but during the course of the game I thought I did a good job.” 

Perkiomen Valley’s Justin Jaworski goes up for a runner in the lane during the second half. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Similar to the past three games, however, Jaworski got hot.

Jaworski hit for five in the third quarter, his 3-pointer from the top of the key moments after a trey from Sean Owens (10 points, eight in third) a highlight of the team’s 15-2 run that brought the game within three (34-31) entering the fourth.

From there, he went bucket-for-bucket with Bickley and Cheltenham. Jaworksi made all but one of the Vikings’ buckets in the final eight minutes, but his play alone couldn’t cut the deficit as the Panthers built their lead back up to 10 following Trevonn Pitts spin and finish and three buckets from Kyin Healey, his finish off a Bickley feed extending it to 50-38 with two minutes left. Bickley then finished it at the line. 

“It was a good fighting back, but that’s a teaching point for us,” Jaworski said. “We have to bring that energy for the whole game, not just for a quarter.”

30 for 30 >> Jaworski has now finished with 30-plus points in three of his last four games.

Note >> Wednesday’s article stating Perkiomen Valley would be making their first appearance in the PIAA tournament was erroneous. The Vikings made the state playoffs in 1972 and 1974. The team beat Saucon Valley in the first round of the then Class ‘B’ State playoffs and lost to North Schuylkill in the second round. In 1974, PV lost to undefeated District Four champion Montoursville, 61-60.

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