GRATERFORD >> Anna Azzara nailed a 3-pointer with 34 seconds remaining in the first quarter to put the junior guard over 1,000 career points. What came next tells you the sort of occasion Thursday night’s matchup between Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley was.
Instead of the newly-customary game stoppage for a brief ceremony, presentation of a commemorative ball or pictures, Azzara stayed locked in, ran back beyond halfcourt and buckled down ready to defend. Winning the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division championship was the celebration Azzara and the Rams were after.
But so was Perkiomen Valley, desperate to get one back on Spring-Ford, defend their home floor and further validate their No. 1 ranking in District 1 Class 6A.
The Vikings got their wish. PV built as large as an 11-point lead in the third quarter and then got clutch play late, led by sophomore Grace Galbavy, to capture a 44-37 victory and the PAC Liberty title.
Along with the division title, Perk Valley (9-1 Liberty, 12-1 PAC, 20-1 overall) gets the added bonus of the No. 1 seed and first-round bye for next week’s six-team PAC tournament and all but locks in the No. 1 seed in the District 1-6A tournament.
“I’m feeling hyped. It feels really good to win against them in that type of game. It’s a great effort from everyone,” said sophomore point guard Bella Bacani.
Galbavy, in her first year at Perkiomen Valley after transferring from Upper Perkiomen, had her best game in orange with 18 points, while Bacani scored 11 and Quinn Boettinger 10.
Galbavy hit the back-breaking turnaround jumper with 2:20 to play after Spring-Ford closed within four points (37-33) and then went 3-for-4 at the free-throw line down the stretch.
Azzara finished with 17 points, the lone player in double figures for Spring-Ford (8-2, 11-2, 19-3), to become the program’s sixth 1,000-point scorer.
“It was a goal of mine. It definitely feels good,” said Azzara, who was treated to a mini-celebration by teammates during the quarter break. “Especially having grown up watching Lucy Olsen, Sammy Stipa getting their 1,000 points, players you looked up to, it feels great to get it as well.”
Azzara joins the club with program all-time leading scorer Olsen (2021), Stipa (2014), Megan Bedard (2008), Allie Kakareka (2008) and Erin Mengel (2003).
Azzara is in rare air reaching the milestone in her third season, a feat only Olsen, Methacton all-time scorer Nicole Timko and Boyertown great Abby Kapp have achieved in recent PAC history.
“I knew it would happen when it happened so I didn’t want to push for it. It’s good to get it,” she said.
The 5-5 guard who can score in multiple ways has the admiration of the opposition.
“Oh my gosh, she’s so good,” said Galbavy. “The way she’s able to score inside – it’s hard enough for me at my size (5-10) – it’s amazing what she can do.”
Perk Valley reversed the earlier result, 56-44 at Spring-Ford on Jan. 13, thanks in large part to an energetic effort that didn’t allow the Rams as much comfort as their earlier meeting.
“We really wanted to play hard this game. We didn’t think we played hard enough last game,” said Galbavy. “We really wanted to get back and show everybody that we are a good team. Obviously Spring-Ford is too, but we’re a really good team too and we’re trying to go far.”
It was a breathless first half that saw seven lead changes. Mac Pettinelli’s 3-pointer to open the second quarter was the Rams’ largest lead at 16-14. But PV shot back with a Galbavy and-one and went on to lead 26-23 at halftime.
Azzara’s opened the second half with an and-one to tie it 26-26, but the Vikings rolled off an 11-0 run to go up 37-26 following a Galbavy jumper.
“We were coming into the game giving as much effort as we could, going hard and playing good defense. All the wins come from playing good defense, the offense will come to you (because of it),” said Bacani.
Azzara scored six straight into the fourth and a Katie Tiffan free throw made it 37-33 PV with 3:47 remaining. But PV showed poise down the stretch and saw out its 20th win.
Ultimately, it was a pair of teams who hold each other in high regard and were grateful for the challenge.
“They’re a really good team. I think their offensive rebounding got to us a little bit,” said Azzara. “We know what we have to adjust for the next time. We have to keep moving forward and put it behind us.”
“It’s good to have them in our conference to help prepare us for later on. We get to play one of the best teams in the state twice a year,” said Galbavy.
It seems very possible that it’ll be more than twice this winter with a possible third chapter on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Perkiomen Valley, the date and site of the PAC girls basketball championship game.
“It definitely sets us up well for districts. As far as PACs go, we are both very good teams. Anything can happen so we have to bring our all,” Galbavy said.
NOTES >> Perk Valley closes its regular season on Feb. 7 with a non-league date with District 1-5A second-ranked Villa Maria (19-2). The PAC No. 1 seed will play a semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 11. Spring-Ford concluded its regular season and will open PACs against the second wild card on Thursday, Feb. 9 at Perk Valley.
Spring-Ford vs Perkiomen Valley