In a tense, high stakes battle between two veteran teams, the Aces emerged thanks to strong senior leadership and the clutch shooting of a junior sniper. Down 37-34 late in the fourth and facing a surging CB West squad whose confidence was growing with each possession, the Aces turned to Oliver Cohen to stem the tide. The 6’1 junior guard buried a deep trey with 1:30 left to even the score and the Aces held off the Bucks till the end of regulation to force an overtime period. In the extra frame, the inside play of senior Greg Robbins and perfect free throw shooting by senior Harley Williamson sealed the final outcome. The Aces prevailed 45-41 in a game that had all the trimmings of a classic District 1 state qualifier.
With the win, the Aces advance to play Penn Wood in the District Quarterfinals on Friday (time and location TBD); the victory also ensures an automatic bid in the state tournament – the Aces’ third state bid in the last four years. The state playoffs begin after the conclusion of district play.
The Aces controlled Tuesday’s game by the smallest of margins for the first three and a half quarters, holding a three-point lead at halftime and a five-point advantage – their largest -- early in the fourth. A Williamson block on the first play of the game set the tone for the Aces’ stingy defense, and the Aces scored some early fireworks on a drop step dunk by Robbins. But the story of the game was the intriguing half-court offensive battle that played out possession-by-possession between two teams that in many ways mirrored each other on the court. The Aces seemed intent on feeding Robbins in the post, and cashing in on kick-out three-pointers to Cohen and junior Alon Seltzer; the Bucks did much of the same with forward Patrick Furst and guards Reills Reichwein and Shane Tyksinski. When the Aces pulled the ball out and spread the floor, the Bucks followed suit. Both teams knocked down four treys. The difference in the game proved to be the Aces’ performance at the charity stripe; LM shot 13-15 from the line (including 4-4 by Williamson in overtime), while the Bucks went 3-7.
Robbins led all scorers with 18 points, including the go-ahead basket in overtime, an acrobatic tip-in off an offensive rebound. He also had two key blocks and five assists, none bigger than the set-up of Cohen’s shot near the end of regulation. Williamson finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Senior guard Eric Stahler, who battled through injury the entire regular season, saw his first extended action and knocked down a jumper and two free throws and played solid perimeter defense. Cohen proved a difference-maker, scoring 9 critical points, all from behind the arc. Seltzer finished with 5 points, including an important three-pointer which energized the Aces’ early attack and two free throws down the stretch. Seniors Vince Weldon and Nick Bibbs provided their stifling defense once again; Matt McKenna also saw time for LM.
Additional Notes…Tuesday’s game marked the final contest of the season at the Aces’ temporary home of Bala Cynwyd Middle School as future playoff games will be played at neutral sites. LM finished with a perfect 9-0 record at BC…State champions Ryan Brooks ’06 (currently a starter for the Temple Owls) and Ernest Moore ’06 were among a number of Aces alumni in the house…More than 150 viewers tuned into the internet broadcast of the game on aceshoops.com.
Lower Merion 8 10 7 12 8 – 45
C.B. West 6 9 9 13 4 – 41
LM: Greg Robbins 18, Harley Williamson 9, Oliver Cohen 9, Alon Seltzer 5, Eric Stahler 4.
CB: Shane Tyksinski 15, Reills Reichwein 12, Patrick Furst 8, Joe Dilullo 2, Chris Dilullo 4.