PHOENIXVILLE - The drought is finally over for the Upper Perkiomen girls basketball team.
It took a lot of extra fighting against stubborn Phoenixville Thursday night, but the Indians sealed their first Pioneer Athletic Conference Final Four playoff berth in 18 years with a gut-wrenching 55-53 victory over the Phantoms.
Sophomore guard Aubrey Gibbs made a last-second driving layup to give the Indians the victory and their first PAC-10 playoff berth since 1994. The Indians (6-7, 10-9) will be the second-place seed from the Frontier Division behind Pope John Paul II.
Stacey Auckland scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Upper Perkiomen before fouling out with eight seconds remaining in regulation time. Dani Moser also finished in double digits with 12 points, including two second-quarter treys and 4-for-6 foul shooting in the fourth period. Holly Crossin, a 6-0 junior forward, made it a threesome with 10 points, four boards, one blocked shot and one steal. Kim Kachmar had nine points with one trey and seven of the markers coming during the opening quarter.
“We know every time we come down here we get a game,” said Upper Perkiomen fifth-year head coach Pete Sovia, a former star at St. Pius X High School in the 1970s. “Generally, Phoenixville has the upper hand on their home court.
“But tonight our kids battled, fought and hustled, and good things happen to teams that hustle.”
Jada Boyce played a terrific game for Phoenixville. She finished with a game-high 23 points and 16 rebounds plus four steals. The junior forward tallied 17 of her counters in the second half and 11 during the third quarter alone. Boyce made eight field goals and shot 7-for-9 at the free throw line.
Nomi Washington contributed 11 points with two treys for the Phantoms in her first game back after a three-week absence to an injury. Aubree Flagg, who played her last home game on Senior Night along with three girls basketball teammates plus the winter track squad, finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and two steals. Flagg hit one triple and scored eight of her points in the first half.
Mary Sinnott, a senior guard, also had nine points for Phoenixville with seven points and one trey in the first eight minutes as Phoenixville (2-9, 4-15) took an 18-15 lead after the initial quarter. Sinnott also made one steal before being called for her fifth personal foul with 57 seconds left in the fourth period. Moser made two foul shots on that play to draw Upper Perkiomen to within one point at 51-50.
Crossin made a putback with 29 seconds showing to give the Tribe the lead, and Auckland tacked on a free throw with 23 ticks left for a 53-51 edge.
Boyce knotted the game at 53 with a pair of foul shots at the eight-second mark before Gibbs made the game-winner.
“On the last play, I told our two guards to get the ball to Holly Crossin,” said Sovia. “Then whoever got it take it as deep as they can. I subbed Morgan Aldinger to get an extra guard in there. We got it to one of our guards and she took it all the way and finished.”
Phoenixville coach Michele Dunleavy was pleased with many aspects of her Phantoms’ showing.
“It was the first good game we played in a while,” said Dunleavy. “It was a team effort. We came from behind and then gaining a lead is something we are not used to. That’s a positive.
“We played in spurts. Jada Boyce played a phenomenal game offensively, rebounding and defensively. Nomi Washington was our spark. She did some good things.”
Dunleavy felt the Indians played with more discipline down the stretch, and that proved to be the difference in the ballgame. Sovia has five experienced seniors in Kachmar, Rachael Keeney (five rebounds, four points), Auckland, Moser and Danielle Marinelli, who all took their lumps as underclassmen in the program and are now reaping the dividends of that court experience.
Phoenixville’s other seniors are guards Annie Rubino and Bailey Stover. Gianna Bliss, another senior forward, did not play this year after tearing her ACL early last season but still served as a student assistant this winter and will play softball in the spring.
Dunleavy was especially pleased with the Phantoms’ second-half play and intensity throughout the contest.
Upper Perkiomen shot 21-for-47 from the field and 10-for-17 at the foul line. Phoenixville shot 17-for-56 from the floor and 15-for-22 at the foul line. ... The Phantoms held a 42-34 rebounding advantage. ... The Indians had 18 turnovers and the Phantoms had 19.