PAC Playoff Semifinals Preview
Almost exactly on the one year anniversary of the controversial Spring-Ford-Perkiomen Valley final, four teams remain anxiously waiting their chance to play for a shot at the Pioneer Athletic Conference title game.
There are the newcomers, Upper Merion (13-9, 9-4) survived a late season slide to win the Frontier division and lock up the second seed in their first season. Norristown (13-9, 8-5) grabbed the fifth seed made an incredible comeback in Tuesday’s play-in game against Methacton to secure their spot in the semi-finals.
There are also the usual powerhouses, top seeded Perkiomen Valley (19-3, 11-2) has been
dominant in league play and sits atop of the District 1 6A rankings as well. Spring-Ford (16-6, 11-2) claimed the third seed and return to the PAC playoffs as the reigning PAC champions.
Tonight, at Norristown Area High School, the semi-finals doubleheader gets going with the Upper Merion Vikings taking on the Spring Ford Rams at 5:30. Following the completion of that game, the Perkiomen Valley Vikings and Norristown Eagles will clash to set the final PAC match-up of the season.
2. Upper Merion Vikings (13-9, 9-4) vs. 3. Spring-Ford Rams (16-6, 11-2)
The Frontier division champions slid late in the season, but the big story here is the return of Matt Faw. The Holy Cross commit had been sitting out with an injury for most the season, but finally returned to action Saturday against Pottsgrove. He had 17 points in the victory that locked up the tightly contested Frontier division title for the Vikings and second overall seed in the playoffs.
At 6’8”, Faw could present a serious match-up problem for the Rams with his athletic ability coupled with his height advantage over the Rams’ big men. Aside from Faw, Ethan Miller deserve a lot of credit for his role in keeping Upper Merion in contention without the team’s top player. Miller is averaging over 13 points per contest and has been a consistent force in the low post for the Vikings.
Defensively, the Vikings have been outstanding this season allowing an average of 50.0 points per contest, good enough for third in the PAC. Their defensive formula should be similar to their first game against the Rams where they held them to 46 points, but ultimately lost because of their inability to sustain a consistent offense.
On the other hand, the Rams have been the best in the PAC offensively this season, averaging over 62 points per game. Several different guys have spread around the scoring. Senior guard Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the team in scoring with 11.5 per game and currently sits tied for fifth in the conference in three pointers.
The key in this game for the Rams will be how a young core of big men, deal with Ethan Miller and Matt Faw. Junior Austin Hokanson and fellow sophomores Noah Baker and Robert Bobeck were tasked with trying to fill the hole left behind by 6’5” center Cam Reid who graduated last year. So far, the trio has done a formidable job, but this will be their biggest PAC test to date.
If they can limit the impact of the inside game, the Rams will have a good shot at winning this game as they hold a big advantage in outside shooting. If they get hot from outside, Upper Merion may have trouble trying to keep up and it could mean chance to repeat as PAC champions.
1. Perkiomen Valley Vikings (19-3, 11-2) vs. 5. Norristown Eagles (13-9, 8-5)
The dichotomy between these two teams is outstanding. One came into the season as the title favorites following a bitter championship game loss last season. One came into the season with little expectations in a league they had never been a part of.
Winning a PAC title would be icing on the cake for Perkiomen Valley to complete what has been a fantastic season for the Vikings. Justin Jaworski has continued to set the league on fire as he leads his team towards another a chance to claim a PAC title.
There has been no let down in “The Valley” this season as they continue to play up to the highest of expectations. Even with a few hiccups along the way (losses against both Owen J. Roberts and Methacton), the Vikings enter this weekend as the title favorites.
At their best offensively, they are very patient with the basketball and continue to pass until they get the best shot possible. Much of that can be attributed to Jaworski and fellow senior guard Sean Owens who have led the second-best offense in the league with tremendous poise. Owens ability as a ball handler has freed up Jaworski late in games to be utilized to his fullest extent as a scorer.
Defensively, there has been no better team in the PAC. The Vikings have not let a PAC team score more than 60 points in a game all season and sit 12-0 when their opponents score less than 50 points. Their trip to Norristown on January 31 was one of those games and resulted in a 59-48 win for Perkiomen Valley.
Norristown has been competitive against the Vikings this season despite dropping both meetings this year. Will tonight in front of their home crowd be the lucky third time? That remains to be seen, but this team is not one to take lightly.
Trailing 42-34 against Methacton with six minutes remaining, the Eagles’ title hopes hung in the balance. The Warriors looked to be one shot away from “the dagger” as one Norristown fan sitting behind me put it. Then came an unbelievable run highlighted by Mikeel Allen’s game tying three in the final minute of the game. The run spilled over into overtime and the Eagles pulled away to earn a trip in the semi-finals.
A team that does its best work slashing to the basket, Norristown had some huge outside baskets late in their win over Methacton which ultimately turned the tables and resulted in the momentous win.
Allen and teammate Xavier Edwards both had double-doubles and figure to play key roles in keeping up with the Vikings’ great backcourt tonight. If Norristown can build on their huge come from behind victory and pack the stands the way they did on Tuesday night, Perkiomen Valley is going to be in for a big-time test to get back to the PAC championship.
It is sure to be one intense night tonight in the Norristown Area High School gymnasium as these figure to be hotly contested games to see who will be playing for the PAC’s ultimate prize. Will it be a rematch of last year’s title game? A match-up of the two division champions? Are the newcomers going to battle it out for the title? Or will it be the two lower seeds battling it out for a title?
The answer comes tonight.