For the first time since 1943, the Aces have earned back-to-back trips to the PIAA Final Four. The Maroon & White punched their ticket on Saturday with a 63-48 win against Lancaster McCaskey at the Geigle Complex in Reading. Tri-captains Ryan Brooks (25 points, 13 rebounds, 11-13 ft), Garrett Williamson (20 points, 13 rebounds, 11-13 ft) and Pete Lucas (12 points, 4-6 3pt.) led the charge, as the team stormed back from a 30-27 halftime deficit to win going away. With the victory, the Aces earned a much-anticipated re-match with rival Chester, who used an overtime buzzer-beater three to top the Aces in the District Final two weeks ago. The game will be played Wednesday night - time and location TBD.
After trailing by as many as eight in the 2nd quarter, the Aces pulled within three at the close of the half on a three by Lucas and a spectacular baseline drive and dunk by Garrett at the buzzer. The play ignited the crowd and sent the team to the locker room on a high note. Despite sloppy play and poor shooting (with the exception of Pete), the Aces were in the game and poised for a 2nd half run.
In the 3rd, the Aces put the clamps on defensively, holding the high-flying Tornados to just six points and taking a two point lead into the final stanza. Lower Merion limited McCaskey's top scorer Edwin Delgado to just 9 total points, thanks to an effective box-and-one and the relenteless individual efforts of Arian Thompson, Ryan and Ernest Moore. Late in the quarter, Eric Barefield (pictured) drew a key charge to force McCaskey's top interior threat Doug Mealing to the bench with four fouls. No Tornados player reached double digits on the day and the team shot just 1-13 from beyond the arc.
Lucas hit another of his four threes to open the fourth, extending the Lower Merion lead to five and the Aces never looked back. McCaskey, who had used a 1-3-1 zone effectively in the first half, was forced to play man, creating tough perimeter match-ups with Brooks and Williamson, who drove repeatedly to the rim and drew fouls. Ryan and Garrett both shot 11-13 from the line - Arian sank all four of his free throw attempts, to cap a stellar 26-30 day at the charity stripe. Of the Aces' 24 fourth quarter points, 19 came on free throws.
Although McCaskey is an out-of-District foe, the two programs are not unfamiliar. The Aces and Tornados annually play in the same season tip-off tournament - the Aces beat McCaskey in early December to take the Eastern PA Invitational championship by an identical 63-48 margin. Saturday's win was the first for Lower Merion against McCaskey in State play. Pictures of the game are available online courtesy of Dave Porter at tornadoalleyhoops.com. To view, click here.
LM: Garret Williamson 20, Ryan Brooks 25, Arian Thompson 4, Greg Robbins 2, Peter Lucas 12
MC: Martinez Dennison 2, Tyler Pope 4, Leander Toney 9, Edwin Delgado 9, Kevin Aguilera 8, Doug Mealing 8, Anthony Hunter 3, Lamar Patterson 5