The post-game scene after the Aces' wild 44-43 win on Friday. The Aces will play Conestoga in the Central League Finals on Saturday night at 7 PM at Ridley High School.
From the grip of the defeat, the Aces snatched away a victory. Senior swingman Harley Williamson nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key as time expired in overtime to give Lower Merion a dramatic 44-43 win over Penncrest in the Central League semifinals. Pandemonium ensued as the Dawg Pound poured onto the BCMS court to celebrate with a team that has shown a penchant for thrilling finishes and pitbull-like tenacity during the most challenging moments of the season. With the victory, the Aces advance to play Conestoga in the league championship game, to be held Saturday night at 7 PM at Ridley High School.
Despite the electrifying conclusion, Friday was a grueling and often disjointed battle, with the visiting Lions pushing their hosts to the brink. Penncrest, eligible for the league postseason only thanks to the Aces’ win over Conestoga last Monday, came out of the gates eager to crash the party. They held a one-point lead after the first quarter and rallied from four down in the second quarter to tie the game at 19 heading into halftime. In fact, the Aces’ four-point advantage was their largest in a game that saw numerous lead changes and momentum shifts.
Lower Merion played fine defense, yet struggled to get into any rhythm offensively, uncharacteristically turning the ball over in key spots, while shooting poorly from both the field and from the line. In fact, Williamson’s three-pointer was the first and only made three of the game for an Aces team that has been red hot from the perimeter in recent weeks. Yet, as has been the case for the entire season, when the Maroon & White need someone to step-up, it seems someone is always there. In this case it was Williamson, who notched 21 points, including the basket that forced overtime and the eventual game-winner. Williamson’s play was especially critical given the loss of teammate Greg Robbins who fouled out near the end of regulation.
A monster block by Williamson with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, which released senior guard Vince Weldon for an easy two in transition, gave the Aces their first lead of the second half. After that, the game was back and forth, with neither team giving an inch. With 13 seconds left in the game and the score knotted at 36-36, Robbins recorded his fifth foul on a lay-up attempt by Penncrest forward Rick Bailey. Bailey sunk the two ensuing free-throws, putting his team up 38-36 with just 12 seconds left. The Aces set-up for the last shot and junior Oliver Cohen delivered a beautiful feed to Williamson under the basket for the game-tying layup. A Penncrest last-gasp three pointer clanked harmlessly off the rim, sending the game into overtime.
The Aces were the first to score in the extra period as junior Alon Seltzer earned a trip to the free-throw line on a putback attempt off an offensive rebound; Seltzer made one of two attempts. With the Aces up 39-38, Williamson recorded his fourth block of the game and converted a lay-up on the resulting possession with only 1:25 left in the period to send the Aces out in front by three.
Penncrest fought back however, eventually taking a 43-41 lead with 8 seconds left, as guard Andrew Radomicki knocked down a three from deep in the corner. With the clock winding down Cohen found Williamson who took a dribble and pivoted several times before launching his game-winner just before the buzzer sounded. The ball hit nothing but net.
Williamson finished with 21 points to lead all scorers and perhaps more importantly showed the ability to put the team on his back in a pinch. Robbins scored 11 points. Junior Alon Seltzer nailed two key stop-and-pops in the first half, and a huge and-one layup in the fourth quarter in tallying 8 points. Weldon was a rock defensively, recording two blocks and two steals, while adding four points. Junior Oliver Cohen led the team with 5 assists and played solid defense on Penncrest’s season leading scorer Rodney Duncan.
Notes…Tickets for the League Final will be available at the doors, beginning at 5:30 PM. Fans are encouraged to arrive early as tickets will only be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Lower Merion: 9 10 7 12 6 – 44
Penncrest: 10 9 9 10 5 – 43
LM: Harley Williamson 21, Greg Robbins 11, Alon Seltzer 8, Vince Weldon 4.
PC: Marvin Little 14, Rodney Duncan 10, Andrew Radomicki 9, Rick Bailey 8, Matt Atkinson 2.