Dear Friends of Lower Merion Basketball,
In the 10th anniversary season of the Aces' last trip to the District Final, the boys in Maroon & White earned a return trip to the title game with a stunning 62-55 win over top-seeded and undefeated Plymouth-Whitemarsh. Playing in front of more than 3500 fans at the Palestra, including a massive Dawg Pound student section, the team came out swinging and kept punching till the giant hit the floor. With the win, the Aces earned a re-match against Chester in the District Finals, to be played Friday night at 8:45 PM at the Villanova Pavillion. In 1996, the Aces beat the Clippers en route to a District and State title. Tickets ($6) for Friday's game are now available at the high school athletic office - hours are 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM today and Thursday - 8:30 AM - 11 AM Friday. Official Maroon & White Aces Nation t-shirts are also on sale. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and wear maroon.
A few other notes on ticket info: we received only 15 seats with chairbacks to sell as part of our allotment from PIAA (even though there are more than 1,000 available at the Pavillion, try to find the logic there, we can't). We suggest that you arrive early and position yourself behind sections E5 and E4 (to see a seating chart, click here), which is behind our bench. After the girls final ends, you can sit in any seats that become available. Our student section is supposed to be N3, N2, N1, NC, NB, but if our kids arrive early and want to try to take over the designated Villanova student section, there won't be anything to stop them. It is a shame that PIAA has pushed our students (the largest student section in District 1) to the top bleachers in the building and had an absolute leash on them at the Palestra, but we will have strength in numbers and hope for a great turnout. We're also working on another audio webcast and will email information asap.
Riding an emotional high from the Springfield game, the Aces arrived at the Palestra last night with upset once again on their mind. The pundits were calling for a 15 point PW win - the Colonials entered the game 27-0 and ranked #1 in AAAA. But the upstart Aces, seeded 5th, approached the game with confidence and a will to win that showed from the opening tip-off. The game had the feel of a heavyweight fight, and the coaching staff drew upon that analogy in the pre-game locker room. Alumnus Sultan Shabazz '94, a former standout at Cheyney University, provided a particularly powerful speech, challenging the team to seize opportunity and to leave everything on the court, even if it meant they were "so tired they had to crawl back to the locker room at the end of the game. Role players were encouraged to step up and provide a spark, be it defensive stops or key buckets. Finally, we asked the guys to have fun and cherish the chance to make history at the Palestra.
And they responded.
PW opened the scoring after winning the tip and went on a 9-4 run to start the first. The Aces countered with a mini-run of their own, highlighted by mid-range baskets from Ryan Brooks (11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals), a baby-hook from Adam Ellison (6 pts., 3 boards) and a big three from Greg Robbins (7 points, 5 rebounds) to gain an 11-10 edge at the end of the quarter. Though the game remained close, the Colonials began to find their rhythm in the 2nd, receiving threes from Siena-bound point guard Ronald Moore and state champion track star Da'Rel Scott (headed to Maryland on a football scholarship) and a dunk from Anthony Minor. With the clock winding down and the Aces trailing by 7, Garrett Williamson (17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals) drove to the basket in transition, hit a tough leaner and was fouled for an and-one. He completed the play, sending the Aces to the locker room down 4, 28-24.
One of the interesting things about seeing a team develop is watching how they grow in the locker room. The kids were exceptionally communicative at halftime, discussing ways to gain an edge with their match-ups, expressing their opinions to one another and the coaching staff and displaying a great deal of self-responsibility and collective initiative. Despite the deficit, there was an awareness that if we could continue to get defensive stops and hit a few more shots, that PW would have to make adjustments and play our game.
The 3rd quarter was another defensive gem, and the Aces began to catch fire from beyond the arc. Pete Lucas (9 points, three 3's) knocked down two threes, Ryan hit one as did Eric Barefield (8 points, 3 assists) and suddenly, LM had its first lead since the first quarter, going into the 4th up 41-39. In the final frame, we were able to control tempo and pull PW out to guard us on the perimeter, enabling Garrett, Eric and Ryan to get to the basket and draw fouls. On the defensive end, Arian and Robbins took two huge charges to sustain the momentum and we pushed the lead to ten points, the first double-digit deficit PW faced all season long. And from there, it was a matter of hitting free-throws and preventing easy baskets - mission accomplished. If not for a late three, the much-heralded Ronald Moore would not have reached double-digit scoring and his ten points represented the 2nd lowest output of the season. PW's final tally (55) was also the 2nd lowest team total of the season, and well below their 74 ppg average.
The energy in the building was amazing and with each made bucket and key stop, the roar of the crowd grew - the anticipation of that last minute and a half - knowing that something incredibly special is going to happen, it's just a matter of when - well, it was just awesome. And when the final horn sounded, Aces Nation found themselves dancing in a familiar spot, but this time on a much bigger and more historic stage. What a night for the Aces basketball family. Now, let's do it again!
Garrett Williamson 17, Ryan Brooks 11, Peter Lucas 9, Arian Thompson 2, Jon Gray 2, Eric Barefield 8, Adam Ellison 6, Greg Robbins 7
PW: Ronald Moore 10, Da'Rel Scott 11, Anthony Minor 10, Lance Wilson 16, Brad Brown 2, Greg Maugle 6
Thanks, again for your support - we hope to see you in the stands on Friday night at Villanova!!!