Anthony Dabbundo (@AnthonyDabbundo)
Exactly 371 days after last season’s incredible championship game, Perkiomen Valley wanted revenge against its biggest rival.
Even though they had already beaten Spring-Ford twice this season, the Vikings were far from satisfied.
After being denied a championship in the final moments last season, Perk Valley got its revenge as the Vikings defeated the Rams 52-45 to claim their second Pioneer Athletic Conference title in five seasons under head coach Mike Poysden.
The Vikings won the first two meetings this year, 74-46 at Spring-Ford on December 22 and 65-58 at home on January 27. In both games, the Vikings were leading from start to finish.
This time was much different.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, it seemed the Rams were headed for a repeat as league champions and a third title in four seasons. The Vikings were squandering what was supposed to be their night of reckoning and revenge.
Trailing 38-31 with just five minutes left on the clock in the championship, most teams would panic.
But not the Vikings.
They didn’t even blink.
They hit three consecutive threes, from Tyler Strechay, Sean Owens, and eventually Justin Jaworski. On a night when they could not get any shots to fall, it was the three sharpshooters, a sophomore and two seniors, who sparked the 11-2 run to put them ahead for good.
Once Jaworski hit a three with 2:15 left on the clock to give Perk Valley a 42-40 lead, the tide had totally turned in front of a packed house at Norristown. Spring-Ford never led again.
“We try to stay relaxed even though it’s a hostile environment, we knew how hard it would be to beat a great team like Spring-Ford three times,” Owens said.
Down the stretch, as the Rams tried to maintain possession and run out the clock, they had multiple costly turnovers, which cost them the fourth quarter as Perk Valley outscored Spring-Ford 26-13.
Despite one of his worst halves of his season, shooting just 1-of-8 with three points at the break, Jaworski never doubted his ability to relocate his jump shot.
“I thought our supporting cast played great, keeping us in the game while I was 1-for-8,” Jaworski said. “Coach just told me to keep shooting.”
“We all tell him to keep shooting, he’s an unbelievable player, he’s the MVP of the league,” Owens said.
Strechay, a sophomore guard, added a critical 12 points, including two threes in the first half to pace a slow shooting start.
“Give Spring-Ford credit, they played great defense on me all night and I was forced into contested shots,” Jaworski continued.
As Jaworski hit a three to tie the game at 17 headed into the half, Perk Valley was fortunate not to be down many more. They held the Rams to just two second quarter points, and on a night when the shots weren’t falling, the defense kept them competitive.
“I thought we were really fortunate walking into half time that it wasn’t 8, 10, 12 points because it could have been,” Poysden said.
“That was a war, and that’s what we expect every time we play them and I couldn’t be happier with the way we responded,” he continued.
The Rams battled and battled all night, out rebounding the Vikings 27-14, and getting 12 points from both Nestor Diaz and Chucky Drummond, but it wasn’t enough.
They went cold at the wrong time, during that 11-2 Perk Valley run that cost them the championship.
Poysden and the Vikings senior class have been waiting to be back in this moment for years, and weren’t going to be denied.
Owens, Jaworski, and center Hogan Millheim have all started together the last three seasons, and have been playing together even longer.
From their 10-year old days at PV travel, to playing AAU with one another at Competitive Edge, and being fellow wide receivers on the gridiron, Owens and Jaworski have built a special bond both on and off court.
When Owens went down late in the fourth quarter with leg cramps, having played every minute of that game, it was Jaworski who went over to talk to his friend and his teammate.
“I told him he sold out for us so we will take it home for him,” Jaworski said.
The Vikings have been building for this moment since even before Jaworski and Owens entered high school, and they weren’t going to let this one slip away.
Four years ago, Perk Valley upset Methacton in the league title, when Jaworski was just an 8th grader. Poysden remembers that moment, walking out of the gym as league champions, when he ran into Jaworski and his mother.
“Justin and his mom were the first two people I saw when he was in 8th grade, him and his mom were waiting outside for me,” Poysden said. “I looked at him and I said, ‘why don’t we get 1,000 points and do this one day.’”
Four years later, Jaworski has his 1,000 points, and even if he had to wait one more year than he perhaps thought, he has his basketball championship.
As a three time PAC champion (counting both sports), Jaworski admits that this one, his final one, is his sweetest.
“Football was great, but as a basketball kid, to beat them in the championship after what happened last year felt like poetic justice for me.”