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District 1 6A: Perk Valley girls down Spring-Ford to go back-to-back

03/02/2024, 9:00pm EST
By Josh Verlin

By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Grace Galbavy needed to get angry. 

The Perkiomen Valley girls basketball junior hadn’t been herself through the first three quarters, scoring just two points as the Vikings trailed archrival Spring-Ford in the District 1 Class 6A championship game. 

Grace Galbavy (above) scored 14 points in Perk Valley's title win. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

“I think I play way more confident when I’m angry,” she said. “I’ve just got to get in that [mindset] the whole game.”

As it turns out, being down in a title game — along with a little smack talk — is exactly what she needed. Galbavy turned it on down the stretch, coming up with big plays to help Perkiomen Valley force overtime and then successfully defend its district title with a 62-55 win over its archrival. 

Perkiomen Valley won the District 1 6A title a year ago as the underdog, a team starting five sophomores downing Haverford High by four for its first title since 2016. This year, coach John Russo’s girls played the entire season as favorites, a massive target on their backs all year long as they won the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship and steamrolled their way back to Temple. 

It’s the seventh straight time Perk Valley has beaten its archrival, including all four times this season. That’s a run that seemed impossible a few years ago, when Lucy Olsen was leading the Rams to the state championship. But Russo's special junior class has swung all the momentum onto its side, and the girls have done it with another year left together.

“It feels even better to do it twice,” Galbavy said.

Navy-bound center Quinn Boettinger led the way for Perkiomen Valley with 18 points, adding seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. Galbavy contributed 14 points and four rebounds, and senior Anna Stein scored 11 points off the bench in a game where all seven of PV’s rotation members entered the scoring column.

Galbavy scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half and overtime, coming up with one big play after another to help the Vikings pull out a hard-fought, back-and-forth contest.

Perkiomen Valley's girls celebrate their second consecutive District 1 6A championship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

 The 6-foot-1 wing had two game-tying buckets in the final 2:30 of regulation, a three-point play to open overtime and a feed to Anna Stein for a bucket that put the Vikings up five with just over 90 seconds left in the extra session. If that wasn’t enough, she dove on a loose ball with 45 seconds left in regulation to help Perk Valley retain possession and close the game out at the line. 

“I wanted to play like I should have been playing the whole game, but it just gives me a lot of confidence when the game’s on the line and stuff like that,” she said, adding: “It just motivates me when people think we’re going to lose.”

“The best thing about Grace is she does not need to dominate the basketball,” Russo said. “She knows how good of a team we are [...]  but when we get her the ball by herself, and it’s one-on-one, nobody can stop her.”

Galbavy didn’t want to get into what specifically got her into her Hulk-angry mindset down the stretch, but she hinted it was something said to her on the court. 

“It’s just [the] rivalry, it’s nothing personal, I know that,” she said. “Spring-Ford, we always get each other fired up. Whenever we play them, we take it as hard as we can.”

It was Spring-Ford who was in control early, leading 12-8 after one quarter and 16-8 midway through the second. But thanks to Stein, who scored seven points in the second quarter, Perk Valley rebounded to take a 28-23 lead into the break. 

Quinn Boettinger (33) celebrates with Grace Galbavy (35). (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

“The game changed,” Russo said. “We were kind of on our heels and she just didn’t want this one to slip away, she was injured last year and this is her last one. I’m proud of her, happy for her, and she deserved it, she earned it.”

Spring-Ford went back up 39-38 by the end of the third quarter, St. Bonaventure commit Mackenzie "Mac" Pettinelli (10 points) hitting a 3-pointer to help the Rams regain the lead. The high-water mark was 44-40 with 6:41 left, but Perk Valley clamped down on defense. 

The Rams had a chance to win it in regulation, holding the ball for the last minute of the fourth, but a game-sealing block by Perk Valley’s Grace Miley sent things into an extra four minutes.

In addition to Galbavy and Stein's big plays, junior point guard Bella Bacani had a steal-and-score with a minute left in overtime to make it a seven-point Vikings lead for the first time.

Spring-Ford’s Mickey McDaniel was emotional afterwards, the Rams’ head coach proud of an effort led by Anna Azzara which looked like it might be enough for nearly 30 minutes. 

Azzara, the Wright State-bound senior, finished with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting, adding three assists and three steals.

“She was terrific, there’s no question, and all the kids played hard,” McDaniel said. “We made some really good plays when we had to and some things slipped away from us. Got to give PV credit, they’re obviously a tremendous team, I said back at the beginning of the year, they’re a state contending team and they’ve proved that. 

“We have one season left, it’s a five-game season left and that’s now we’ve got to refocus for that,” he added, referring to the state playoffs. “And that’s tough right now because this is something that these girls really wanted, and it was in our hands and slipped away. We’re going through an emotional time right now, and it’s going to hurt all of us.”

As the district runner-up, Spring-Ford enters the western half of the 6A bracket. The Rams will host the fifth seed out of District 3, Northeastern (York), in Friday’s first round. Perkiomen Valley hosts the District 3 sixth seed, Manheim Township, the same night. 

Last year’s state tournament run was brief for the Vikings, who were upended by Archbishop Carroll in the second round. They’re planning on a much deeper stay this time around, with the goal a trip to Hershey later in the month.

“It’s on my mind every day,” Galbavy said of the loss. “I didn’t like the feeling then, and I wouldn’t like the feeling this year. We want to go out and we want to win everything. Two district championships are great, but we want to be state champions.”

By Quarter
Perk Valley:   8   |  20  |  10  |  10  |  14  ||  62
Spring-Ford: 12  |  11  |  16  |   9   |   7   ||  55

Perk Valley: 22-38 FG (2-6 3PT), 16-26 FT
Spring-Ford: 21-51 FG (5-17 3PT), 8-10 FT

Perk Valley: Quinn Boettinger 18, Grace Galbavy 14, Anna Stein 11, Lena Stein 8, Bella Bacani 4, Grace Miley 4, Julia Smith 3

Spring-Ford: Anna Azzara 24, Mac Pettinelli 10, Katie Tiffan 9, Aaliyah Soliday 5, Kareena Preuss 3, Christina Tiffan 1

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