LIMERICK >> Mikaela Giuliani had been the North Penn girls basketball team’s offense in the fourth quarter. So with the season on the line in the final minute Tuesday night, the Knights were going to get the ball in their lone senior’s hands.
“Coach (Jen) Carangi actually called that,” Knights head coach Maggie deMarteleire said. “We had called something else the time before and we were going to run that and Jen just said, ‘No, they’re can’t stop Mikaela (Giuliani). Let’s dump it into her.”
North Penn held a 13-point advantage in the third quarter and led by 11 going into the fourth, but a KT Armstrong-led charge got Perkiomen Valley back into the PIAA Class AAAA second round contest. And with 43.5 seconds left at Spring-Ford, the Vikings held a 52-51 after Hanan Richmond put back her own miss.
That was when the Knights put their trust in Giuliani. Jess Huber’s bounce pass from the wing got to Giuliani inside and the senior’s layup put the Knights back up a point.
“Everyone on my team had the confidence in me, which just helped build my confidence,” Giuliani said. “Our plan on that last play was literally get Jess the ball and Jess pas it into me. And that’s what we did. And I finished it and that’s what I needed to do.”
A missed jumper by PV, two free throws by Huber with 4.3 seconds and an off-target heave later, North Penn was celebrating a 55-52 victory advancing it to the state quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons.
“It’s a really amazing win,” Giuliani said. “We couldn’t let the environment dictate how we played. They had so many fans there, their student section was crazy, the refs weren’t calling things our way, but our whole thing we just keep playing no matter what the situation. And we did that and that’s why we came out with the win.”
Giuliani scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth, while Jess Huber knocked down four 3-points as she finished with 18 points to paced North Penn (28-3), which avenged a 69-50 loss to the Vikings in the season opener and advance to face Neshaminy in the quarters Friday.
“It feels great. I don’t think I could ask for anything better in the world,” Huber said. “We all love winning more than anything and so to pull it out over a great team like Perk Valley, it means a lot.”
Neshaminy defeated Upper Dublin 53-35 in the first game Tuesday at Spring-Ford. It is the third meeting this season between NP and Neshaminy, with the Knights winning the previous two – 44-39 in the Suburban One League semifinals Feb. 6 and 57-29 in the District 1 fifth place semifinals Feb. 24.
Armstrong, a St. Joseph’s commit, had a game-high 21 points for Perkiomen Valley (28-3), including eight during the 10-0 run to start the fourth, which cut a 45-34 deficit down to 45-44 after an Armstrong 3. The Vikings twice held one-point leads in the final period, but both were erased by Giuliani baskets.
GIRLS #BASKETBALL: @mikaelagiuliani scores inside to put @NPKnightsGBB up 53-52 final minute 4Q vs. Perk Valley. pic.twitter.com/Y4ARdc5oPY
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 9, 2016
“It’s very upsetting to have you high school career be over tonight, but just looking back this is the best senior year I could’ve asked for,” Armstrong said. “I have some really great teammates and I’m going look back and definitely remember this year forever.”
Megan Jonassen added 11 points for Perk Valley, which was trying to claim its second PIAA victory in school history.
“You can’t ask for anything more than what those kids gave me in the fourth quarter,” PV coach John Strawoet said. “They put everything on the line that fourth quarter, they left all on the floor, between the lines.
“And they have nothing to be ashamed of, it’s been a great year, they’ve all contributed and played really, really well. We accomplished so much this year.”
After Giuliani’s basket put NP up 52-51 with 33.9 seconds left, Perk Valley got the ball in the hands of Armstrong, but her jumper was shot. Sam Carangi hauled in the rebound for the Knights, with Huber eventually being fouled going to the hoop with 4.3 seconds left. The junior made both free throws for a 55-52 lead.
“I just wanted to feel confident and composed,” Huber said. “I knew if I felt that way it would go in.”
That put North Penn in a familiar situation from this postseason. The Knights had a three-point lead against Central Bucks South in the District 1 quarters, but Jordan Vitelli’s made a shot at the buzzer from beyond half court to force overtime, where South eventually won.
It would not happen again to North Penn. The Knights double-teamed Armstrong with Richmond’s heave as the clock hit zeroes going wide left.
“The first thing I thought was please don’t let us tie on a half-court shot again,” Giuliani said. “It was just super-scary déjà vu . But when I saw that it was off, we all went crazy, it was so exciting.”
North Penn led to 13 twice in the third quarter, the last time at 45-32 after Bri Hewlett scored inside on inbounds. Bridgette Bonjo banked in a runner to pull PV to within 45-34 entering the fourth.
Armstrong made it 45-37 at 7:06 with her three-point play with a Jonassen putback cutting he margin to six. Armstrong then connected on a jumper then nailed a trey to make it 45-44.
“We just said go out, we just got to get one stop at a time,” Strawoet said. “Get one defensive stop at a time, come up and KT was hot at the time. And let’s get her as many open looks as we can. That’s how we got back in the game.”
GIRLS #BASKETBALL: Perk Valley's heave doesn't go, @NPKnightsGBB celebrates its 55-52 PIAA 4A 2nd round win. pic.twitter.com/KOfRxvcHtP
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 9, 2016
Four straight points by Giuliani pushed NP’s lead to 49-44. Bonjo collected a basket and was fouled with 3:40 left. She could not complete the and-one, but Jonassen grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to make it 49-48.
Richmond gave Perk Valley its first lead since 8-5 in the first quarter by lofting in a shot off the drive with 2:55 left.
The Vikings missed three shots trying to extend their advantage. Sam Carangi forced a steal only for Armstrong to intercept her pass intended for Giuliani. On the other end, Armstrong found Bonjo down low, but Irisa Ye blocked the shot out of bounds at 1:29.
Carangi blocked a Banger shot, took the ball down court, then found Huber at the top of the arc, who rifled a pass to Giuliani inside for a 51-50 lead.
Richmond missed a runner, but the rebound was tipped back into her hands and she converted the second opportunity to return the advantage back to PV with 43.5 seconds left. Giuliani basket, however, provided the game its last lead change.
North Penn was up 12-9 after the opening eight minutes and twice push the lead to seven in the second quarter, then last time at 20-13 after a Hewlett jumper. An Armstrong basket had Perk Valley within 25-22 before a Carangi hit a 3 and Ye made 1-of-2 from the line at 7.1 seconds to make it 29-22 at halftime.
A Giuliani hoop and a Huber 3 had the Knights up 39-26 in the third quarter. Six straight points from Armstrong cut the margin to 39-32 but consecutive basket from Ye and Hewlett’s two off an inbounds had NP’s lead back to a baker’s dozen.