It may be the final year of the Main Gym, but the Aces aren't finished making memories on their venerable home court. On a night when the old wooden bleachers were packed to the rafters, the boys in Maroon & White pulled off a most improbable victory, marked by a furious last minute rally and a shot that will live on in Aces basketball lore.
With .4 seconds on the clock and the Aces trailing Prep Charter 61-60, Kevin Escott hurled a 50-foot, three-quarter court strike in the direction of Harley Williamson. In full stride, Williamson caught the ball from 12-feet out and lifted it towards the basket as time expired. The ball landed softly on the backboard and dropped through the net to give the Aces the win.
Pandemonium ensued as Aces Nation stormed the court in celebration. "The shot" recalled several recent Aces buzzer-beaters, including Adam Ellison's game-winning heave against Chester last season and Greg Robbins's last-second jumper against Easton in the 2007 playoffs. The difference on Saturday night was that Williamson's game-winner came in front of the home crowd.
"We made the play on the spur-of-the-moment," said Williamson in a post-game interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, "I just saw the ball go through the hoop."
It took a fortunate series of events for the Aces to even have a chance for last-second heroics. Trailing 59-53 with one minute to play, Carl Johnson began the miraculous comeback, driving full-throttle to the basket for a tough lay-up in traffic. The Aces earned a defensive stop and with 30 seconds to play, Johnson found Steve Meehan in transition for one of Meehan's five treys on the night, narrowing the gap to 59-58. After Prep Charter guard Ferg Myrick made the score 61-58 on a contested leaner, the Aces pushed the ball to Williamson who drove from the right baseline and was fouled with 18.6 seconds left to play. Williamson hit both free throws to pull the Aces back within one.
Full-court pressure forced a Prep Charter turnover, leading to what appeared to be the final Aces possession.
A Meehan jumper with five seconds on the clock rimmed short and a mad scramble for the rebound resulted in an Aces foul. The Huskies' leading scorer, Parrish Grant, went to the line for two bonus free throws. He missed both. Meehan leaped to rebound the 2nd miss and called timeout in mid-air, setting up one of the wildest, most exhilarating finishes in Main Gym history.
Meehan led all scorers with 17 points and collected five rebounds to earn Team MVP honors for the game, which was part of the 5th Annual Scholastic Play By Play Main Line Classic. Johnson (11 points, six assists, three steals) and Eric Stahler (9 points, six rebounds, six assists) played stellar floor games, remaining cool, calm and collected against Prep Charter's full-court pressure. Defensively, Johnson limited ACC recruit Jesse Morgan (22 ppg) to nine points, Morgan's lowest output in nearly two seasons. Stahler went 6-7 from the line, connecting on all four attempts in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Escott (6 points) led the team with 7 rebounds and was a presence all night on the offensive glass, keeping the ball in play on second and third efforts. Greg Robbins (8 points, five rebounds) helped solidify the Aces' interior defense; Alon Seltzer hit a key three-pointer and pulled down two rebounds. Ben Lucas (2 points) and Oliver Cohen also saw time for the Aces.
Ultimately, the night belonged to Williamson (6 points, two rebounds) for coming up in the clutch and giving Aces Nation an unforgettable Main Gym memory.
Did you notice?
The work of Robbins and Escott on the offensive glass – their offensive taps to keep the ball alive on two late possessions in the fourth led to a Meehan three and a Johnson layup... St. Joe's Coach Phil Martelli received a standing ovation from the Dawg Pound as he walked to his seat above the student section... Temple Coach Fran Dunphy talking shop with "Shootah" Dave Stotter...The new inflatable LM Bulldog mascot, whose head bobbed above the frenzied post-game scene... The work of Dan "Towel Boy" Sarnoff '05, who returned to the Main Gym as a spectator and unselfishly put his court-wiping skills back to work several times... The student section singing "Happy Birthday" to manager Matt Lachs, who celebrated his 18th on Saturday... The first person to embrace Williamson in the hallway after the game was older brother Garrett (currently a sophomore guard at St. Joe's), who was known for some last-second heroics of his own when he wore the Maroon & White.
PC: Willis Nicholson 13, Parrish Grant 15, Ferg Myrick 11, Jesse Morgan 9, Tyree Harris 4, Shaquille Duncan 2, Zaahid Hollowman 5, Amen Tanksley 2.
LM: Eric Stahler 9, Greg Robbins 8, Kevin Escott 6, Carl Johnson 11, Steve Meehan 17, Alon Seltzer 3, Ben Lucas 2, Harley Williamson 6.
The Aces face off against Central League foe Conestoga on Tuesday at 7:30 PM in the Main Gym in the annual Coaches v. Cancer Classic. Conestoga is 4-3 overall this year, and 2-2 in league play. They are coming off a 49-42 loss to Ridley on Friday. The Pioneers have a strong core of juniors, namely Matt O'Hara (10.8 PPG), Mike D'Angelo (7.4 PPG), and Jake Cohen (13.8 PPG).
Coverage of last night's game in the Philadelphia Inquirer is available here.