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Winning Spirit Carries Tribe to PAC Playoffs
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            A winning spirit has carried the Upper Perkiomen girls basketball team to the postseason. A seven-game winning streak allowed the team to qualify for the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoffs, which begin tonight. A berth in the District One Class 5A playoffs is imminent, according to head coach Matthew Bowe.  "Getting this far is a

Erin States, center, fights for a rebound in Satur-

day's win over visiting Upper Merion.

dream come true," he said.

            The Indians (9-4 PAC, 15-7 overall) ended their season with consecutive victories over Upper Merion and Kutztown. They finished second in the Frontier Division standings and earned a berth in the Final Six at Spring-Ford. The No. 4 seed will take on the host Rams, seeded No. 5, at 7:30 p.m.

            According to Bowe, a positive attitude has allowed the Tribe to reach the conference playoffs for the first time in nine years and post its winningest season since 1992, when it posted 22 victories and reached the PAC title game. He said the excitement exhibited by every player, either in the game or on the bench, has been the key to a turnaround from a winless season 2020-21.  "That is what feeds us," said Bowe, in his third season leading the program.

            On Saturday, Feb. 5, the host Indians withstood a furious fourth-quarter rally by Upper Merion to post a 48-43 victory. Grace Galbavy converted three foul shots and intercepted two passes in the final 20.6 seconds to preserve their sixth consecutive victory.

            Galbavy, a 6-foot-1 freshman, finished with a game-high 25 points in the team's final conference game. She also added 15 rebounds, eight steals and two blocks.

            Additionally, the Tribe received significant contributions from Gabriella Neal, Hannah Keeney and Erin States. Neal, a senior from Pennsburg, rose to the occasion defensively in the second half. She recorded five of her six steals in the final 16 minutes to help her team overcome a 21-20 halftime deficit.

            Neal delivered three of her seven points in the fourth quarter. Her ball handing down the stretch helped the Indians hold off a late run by Upper Merion, which got within 45-43 with less than a minute remaining.  "Last year, we would have figured out a way to give up the lead," Bowe said. "This team is going to do whatever it takes to win."

            Keeney added seven points for the Indians, who built a 44-34 lead midway through the fourth quarter. States scored all six of her points early in the quarter to help extend a 32-27 advantage after three quarters.  "Grace is an amazing player," Neal said. "But at halftime, we realized the rest of us would have to step up as much as possible to help her.

            In the third quarter, when the Vikings implemented a box-and-one defense against Galbavy, her teammates filled the offensive void. Keeney opened the quarter with a 3-pointer.

            Neal delivered two baskets off consecutive steals. Her jumper from the left wing early in the fourth quarter staked the Tribe to a 34-27 advantage.  "Gabby is playing her best basketball," Bowe said. "She's been doing it for the last two weeks. She is playing with confidence."

            Two days later, on Senior Night against visiting Kutztown, the Indians withstood a late rally to post their seventh consecutive victory, 48-44. Keeney scored a team-high 14 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes of action in the non-league victory.

            Galbavy added 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in just over 17 minutes on the floor for the Tribe, which led 30-8 at halftime and 38-21 through three quarters. Bailey Cahill registered six points.

            To defeat Spring-Ford in the quarterfinal round of the conference playoffs, the Tribe will need the best from everyone on the roster, according to Bowe. He said the players will need to embrace the moment.  "We've got to bring our 'A' game," the coach said.

            Though the Rams – who finished third in the Liberty Division behind Methacton and Perkiomen Valley – are not as good as previous seasons, Bowe described them as a formidable opponent. Three players remain from last season's team, which posted a 24-1 record and captured the conference and District One Class 6A titles before reaching the PIAA title game.

            According to Bowe, the Indians will find out their initial opponent in this year's district tournament on Wed., Feb. 9. They are safely positioned as the No. 10 seed in the power rankings, according to the district website.

            The Tribe will likely open the tournament on the road against Villa Maria Academy on Friday, Feb. 18. The top 12 teams qualify, and five advance to the PIAA Class 5A Tournament.






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