Down 55-53 with 20 seconds left, Boyertown guard Katie Armstrong was pushing through a swarm of Northampton defenders and saw one of her teammates wide open. She saw the last girl any opponent would want to see wide open at the end of the game, Abby Kapp. Once the pass was delivered, Abby Kapp did what Abby Kapp does. Score the basketball.
As Katie drove down the court, she recalls seeing Kapp’s little blonde head above everybody else’s and I just knew she’s got this.”
The Lady Bears were not out of the woods yet, however, as the Koncrete Kids found themselves a wide-open lay-up with 10 seconds left. Or so they thought. Out of nowhere, Tori Boalton emphatically sent back the shot and Boyertown regained possession looking primed to seal the game with some free throws.
Despite playing with four fouls down the stretch, Boalton had a key steal and the huge block at the end of the game. Her focus? “I was looking to hustle…I was only thinking about getting the ball,” she explained.
“Those two plays are really the reason we won the game,” Boyertown coach Jason Bieber said following the game, “Without Tori’s defense, we don’t get the opportunity to hit [the game-winning] shot.”
Kylie Webb stepped to the line for a one and one and the chance to give the Bears a little breathing room with 6.2 seconds remaining. The sharpshooter who finished near the top of the PAC in threes this season saw her shot bounce off the back of the rim and into Northampton’s waiting hands.
Northampton’s standout guard Victoria Keenan was off to the races to try to prevent the upset and pulled up from just outside the three-point line with just enough space to get it off. The sophomore would watch as it fell just short and, despite her best efforts late in the game to fend off the sixth seeded Lady Bears, she would watch Boyertown celebrate their way to the state semifinals.
Keenan and her teammate Aja Blount scored 41 of the team’s 55 points in the loss. Blount became a match-up nightmare for the Bears early on and continued to dominate late in the game. She went an outstanding 14 for 14 from the free throw line and finished her last high school game with 28 points and 12 rebounds.
“We were just trying to find a way to stop her [Blount] from scoring every time she touched the ball which didn’t really matter because she scored every time she touched the ball anyways,” Coach Bieber said of Aja Blount’s huge first half, “We just had to find a way to somehow control her.”
The answer to that was not easy, but tough man to man defense ended up being good enough to push his team over the top. Still, early on it appeared nothing was going to slow down Blount and the Koncrete Kids. Boyertown struggled defending in a zone and Abby Kapp picked up two early fouls which was an unsettling feeling for the Lady Bears. Kapp even admitted it was difficult to put aside the early foul trouble.
After the game, she described her mindset on those early fouls, “I try not to think about it, but it’s hard…I just try to stay composed and not to get too far ahead of myself.”
Northampton would go into the halftime break up 30-24 behind Blount’s 16 points, but it was the Bears strong start to the second half that flipped the script on the third seeded Koncrete Kids. The Lady Bears came out in the third quarter and went on a 16-4 run paced by seven points from Katie Armstrong.
The mindset behind that run? A principle that Coach Bieber has gotten the girls to buy into, “Like our coach always says ‘We want to leave it all on the court, we don’t want to go home and look in the mirror and wonder what we could have done.’”
Between Armstrong & Webb’s consistency on offense, Kapp’s timely shooting, and Boalton’s big-time defensive plays, the Lady Bears put together a full team effort to squeak by Northampton. It’s going to take another one of those efforts on Monday night if they are going to beat top seeded Cardinal O’Hara for a chance to play in Hershey for the state title.
As for Northampton, it’s the end of a great season for the Koncrete Kids. They finish the year 19-10 with two state playoff victories and got the furthest of any District 11 team. They figure to be right back in the mix next year with Keenan returning along with fellow starters Jade Rindock and Jenna Rogers.
However, it is now the Lady Bears that stand one win away from a trip to the state championship. Having already knocked off the reigning state champions, they now must defeat the state runner-ups from a year ago. Boyertown-Cardinal O’Hara. Buckle up because this one may be as thrilling as a ride on Fahrenheit in Hershey Park.
(Photo Credit: Wave Lane)