Royersford >> With the season on the line, the North Penn girls basketball team was going to put the ball in its 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.”
Giuliani did not let North Penn down. Trailing Perkiomen Valley by a point in the final minute of their PIAA Class AAAA second round matchup Tuesday, Jess Huber’s bounce pass found Giuliani for a layup inside and a 53-52 lead.
The Vikings could not convert down at their end, Jess Huber hit a pair of free throws with 4.3 seconds left and PV’s half-court heave at the buzzer was off the mark as the Knights held on to claim a 55-52 win at Spring-Ford.
“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 (Huber) 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.”
North Penn (28-3) led by 13 late in the third quarter and was up 11 heading into the fourth, but Perk Valley (28-3), the PAC-10 and District 1 champ, opened the final quarter with a 10-0 run – eight points coming from KT Armstrong – to cut the margin down to 45-44.
The Vikings twice took one-point leads on baskets by Hanan Richmond, but Giuliani answered each time for the Knights, which advance to the state quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons to face Neshaminy Friday at a site and time to be announced.
“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.”
KT Armstrong scored a game-high 21 points, 14 coming in the second half, for Perk Valley. Megan Jonassen added 11 points. The Vikings entered Tuesday having won 14 straight.
“It’s very upsetting to have your 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.”
GB: @ChkenpARMSTRONG jumper makes it 39-32 pic.twitter.com/fz1bhtmjak
— Sam Stewart (@Samuel_Stewart7) March 9, 2016
Huber knocked down four 3-pointers to pace North Penn with 18 points. Giuliani, who sat the final 10-plus minutes of the first half after picking up her third foul, collected 10 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“The whole last minute and half is like a blur,” deMarteleire said. “But I’m really, really proud of them in front of that great crowd.”
GB: @NPKnightsGBB makes it 20-13 pic.twitter.com/mLYur9jBiF
— Sam Stewart (@Samuel_Stewart7) March 9, 2016
After Giuliani basket to put North Penn up 52-51, Armstrong got a look at a jumper, but it hit iron. The Knights grabbed the rebound and got the ball down court to Huber, who was fouled going to the net with 4.3 seconds left.
Huber made both at the line putting NP up three. In the district quarterfinals against Central Bucks South, the Knights were in the same situation and had CB South’s Jordan Vitelli hit a 3 from beyond halfcourt to send the game to OT, where South eventually won.
The Knights were going to make sure that was not happing twice this postseason. Double-teaming Armstrong, Richmond ended up taking the last shot, but it was off-line.
“We didn’t want a repeat of South, not to mention it again,” Huber said.
North Penn led 12-9 after a quarter. A three by Armstrong at the top of the arc had PV within 23-20 in the second quarter before the Knights collected six of the half’s final eight points to lead 29-22 at the break.
A Giuliani basket and Huber three put North Penn up 39-26 in the third. The Vikings got to within 39-32 after an Armstrong jumper but four straight points from Irisa Ye and a Bri Hewlett bucket on an inbounds had NP back up a baker’s dozen. A Bridgette Bonjo hoop had Perk Valley down 43-34 entering the fourth.
Armstrong pulled the Vikings back into the contest, scoring eight points during a 10-0 run, her cutting NP’s lead to 45-44.
Back-to-back Giuliani baskets had North Penn up five, but Bonjo scored and was fouled at 3:40. She missed the free throw but Jonassen grabbed the rebound and collected a bucket to make it 49-48. Richmond’s two gave PV its first lead since 8-5 in the first quarter.