By Kyle Peters and Alec Nathan
In 1990, Gregg Downer assumed the role as Lower Merion’s Head Basketball Coach. Since then, he has established himself as one of the most successful coaches in the area, winning two state championships, nine Central League titles, a District crown and several state Coach of the Year awards. This year, he set the school’s all-time record for wins, surpassing William Anderson’s mark of 346 wins, which stood for more than five decades. We caught up with Coach Downer to get his perspective on this year’s state-qualifying team, as well as those from the past and how they compare to this year’s squad.
1. What do you think of your team’s accomplishments this year?
A: I feel this team has done a great job this year. Before the season we set many goals, and two of them were to win the Central League and get a state bid, so to achieve both of them is great.
2. What makes this year’s state team different than the others?
A: Unlike some of the other teams in the past this team really gets along with each other. Everyone just gets along. It’s kind of like a family out there.
3. What are your favorite memories of your past state appearances?
A: The run we made back in 2005 to make it to the state finals after being the 12th seed in districts was something very special. But I also have many fond memories of the ‘96 and 2006 state championship teams.
4. How do you feel about your veteran leadership on this team?
A: A lot of our seniors have stepped up into a leadership role this year, but especially Greg Robbins. Robbins has become a lot more of a leader, and took the game very seriously this year.
5. How important has it been for some of your young players such as Matt McKenna, Oliver Cohen, and Alon Seltzer to step up the way they have this year?
A: Our underclassmen have really been important to this team. Oliver and Alon have had some big shots, as well as Matt. They have come up big for us this season.
6. How have the defensive efforts of certain players helped this team throughout the season?
A: Defensively, Vince Weldon has been an unsung hero for this team. He is the best defender on the team and has helped us win some key games.
7. How has the return of Senior Eric Stahler helped contribute to your team’s success down the stretch?
A: Having Eric back has helped this team a lot. Before the season I thought Eric was one of the top three point guards in the Central League so we really missed him early on. Although he still isn’t 100 % he has still been a great boost for this team.
8. What have you seen in the evolution of Aces Nation and the Dawg Pound over your 18-year coaching career, and how has this year’s Dawg Pound helped with your team’s success?
A: I have noticed that Aces Nation and the Dawg Pound have been getting increasingly better every year. The fan support has been tremendous and it’s nice knowing that we have a strong student body cheering us on.
9. What do you think helped your team turn things around from early in the season to go on to win 17 of your last 18 regular season games?
A: Well, we had some very strong practices, and I feel this team got better every day. We adopted a mindset that losing was unacceptable.
10. The team you play Saturday (Parkland) beat you earlier in the year, what’s your game plan this time around?
A: Parkland is a very strong team. We will need to play a really good 32 minutes of basketball.
GAME NOTES: The Aces’ game against Parkland will be played Saturday at William Allen HS in Allentown, PA. Tip-off is set for 4 PM. Discounted student tickets ($3) are available through Friday afternoon at 4 PM in the Lower Merion Athletic Office. All adult tickets and all tickets sold at the doors on Saturday are $6.
Directions to William Allen High School
Take I-476 North to the Lehigh Valley Exit # 33. After the tolls bear right onto Route 22 East.
Follow Route 22 East for 4 miles to the 15th Street Exit. At exit bear right onto Mauch Chunk Road, then it becomes 15th Street.
Follow 15th Street to first stop sign; then straight to the third stop light at Tilghman Street. Make right onto Tilghman heading west.
Follow Tilghman Street for several blocks until 17th Street (Chevrolet dealership on right side of intersection).
Make left onto 17th Street.
Follow 17th Street to third stoplight, which is the intersection of 17th and Turner Street.
William Allen HS is on the right side.