COLLEGEVILLE >> After dispatching another worthy playoff opponent and going another step farther than Perkiomen Valley girls basketball ever has, seniors KT Armstrong and Tori Walter hugged near midcourt.
Other Lady Vikings hugged. Everyone was smiling. Cheers from the sizable home crowd filled the floor, and you sensed something special happening as PV’s dizzying district tournament run continued.
The No. 2-seeded Lady Vikings are now in Wednesday’s District 1 Class AAAA semifinals after an impressive 57-46 victory Saturday evening over 7-seeded Conestoga. For Armstrong, a terrific all-around guard headed to Saint Joseph’s on a basketball scholarship, her final high school season (25-2) is everything she hoped for — and it just keeps getting better.
In her final home game, Armstrong scored 26 points, including 18 in the second half to help put the Pioneers away.
“It’s crazy,” a beaming Armstrong said. “I’m sure at the end of this I’ll be looking back on it thinking how crazy and awesome it was. Right now I’m trying to focus, taking it game by game, but the fact this is my last home game ever is insane.”
“It’s amazing,” said Perkiomen Valley sophomore forward Megan Jonassen, who was amazing herself with top-shelf work on the boards and in the paint, scoring 12 of her 17 in the second quarter. “I wouldn’t want to go through it with any other team. It’s just exhilarating.”
“It’s big. It’s big,” a beaming PV head coach John Strawoet said of the latest accomplishment.
Strong, sustained defense and a solid team effort by all seven Lady Vikings who played led to their semifinal berth against Upper Dublin at Council Rock South Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“Every single game we’re just getting better and playing so well together,” Armstrong said. “We know where everyone else is going to be. It just gets easier to play when you have a really good team surrounding you.”
PV never trailed. The Lady Vikings weathered a 25-point effort by the Pioneers’ Ellie Mack, a good shooter and creator, making her work for her points and keeping the rest of the team under close watch. PV’s length and activity on both backboards, a staple all season, was central to their controlling the pace.
Conestoga hit a couple of 3-pointers early in the second quarter while whittling a 15-8 first-quarter deficit to one on two occasions, the last at 25-24. From there, Jonassen took over, getting two consecutive three-point plays — first on a driving basket, the second on a putback — to put PV up by seven at halftime, 31-24.
That was part one of the turning point. Part two came right out of the gate in the second half, as PV forced two turnovers from a 1-2-2 halfcourt press and scored six points in a span of 1:15. Taylor Hamm got the first hoop, and Armstrong and Hanan Richmond scored off the turnovers to make it 37-26. Conestoga got within seven a couple times, but PV consistently pulled away from the early fourth quarter.
Armstrong showed much of her versatile offensive arsenal in the second half, driving each side, hitting jumpers, drawing an extra defender on penetrations and finding the open teammate. With Jonassen on the bench much of the third quarter after drawing her third foul with 5:13 left in the period, Armstrong, Hamm and Walter carried the offense. McKenna Kohler and Ashley Bangert gave good minutes off the bench.
“The first half my shot was a little off; I was forcing up some bad shots,” Armstrong said. “But the second half we were getting our hands in there (for steals) and I got some baskets off transition.”
Walter, always a strong defender and rebounder, stepped up with seven points, including a three. Richmond, capable of big bursts offensively, scored only two but was very valuable with her second-half defensive attention on Mack. Armstrong checked Mack much of the first half, and Strawoet noted that the switch to Richmond kept Armstrong fresh on offense.
“You have to give Mack a lot of credit — she’s a great player,” Strawoet said. “In the second half Hanan was invaluable for us. When your best (Armstrong) is playing their best, they lose legs. That’s why we made the switch. Hanan is quick and tall enough to contest her.”
Also praising Hamm, Walter and Jonassen for their interior hustle and board work, Strawoet said, “You can’t give our inside people enough credit. Everybody’s doing their part. It was a real, real team effort.”
“We definitely wanted to come out and match their intensity from the opening tip, and I feel we did that,” Jonassen said.