Lower Merion boys basketball squad proves to be Lion tamers

Middletown >> Following Lower Merion’s gut-wrenching loss to Garnet Valley Jan. 24, Aces’ head coach Gregg Downer felt the next two games could be the most important minutes of their season.
“It was very disappointing not to get the Garnet game, especially after the half-court shot,” Downer said following Lower Merion’s 58-56 win over Penncrest Tuesday. “I thought next 64 minutes [two games] would be most important of our season and whether it could define our season. Can we make Central League playoffs? Can we not make Central league playoffs? Can we get a top eight bye in the district playoffs? I knew 64 minutes would be critical and to come away with a pair of 58-56 wins (over Conestoga Jan. 27 and Penncrest Tuesday) were crucial.”
Lower Merion senior Terrell Jones, who led Lower Merion Tuesday with 18 points while adding seven rebounds and six steals, said, “Tonight was huge. Taking the loss to Garnet really set us back, but big wins over Conestoga and Penncrest, combined with some upsets help set us up. Everyone was locked in and we came in and did what we had to do.”
“We knew tonight was going to be very tough,” added sophomore Steve Payne, who finished with 13 points, two assists and two steals. “Penncrest is very tough especially when you have to play against a D1 prospect in Tyler Norwood. We just stayed in the gym and kept working and got our mind right and stayed focused.”
All evening seemed like punch-counterpunch with Lower Merion trying to break open a close game and Penncrest fighting back each time. Late in the third quarter Lower Merion opened up a 41-32 lead when sophomore Steve Payne converted a perfect feed from Khadafy Bilal.
Just as they did all night, the Lions came roaring back to tie the contest at 46-46 when senior Justin Ross drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key. The next few minutes featured more punch-counterpunch before the Aces were finally able to land the knockout blow in the final minute courtesy of senior Terrell Jones and sophomore Jack Forest.
With the score tied at 50, Jones converted a lay-up to give the guests a 52-50 lead. After Penncrest sliced the lead to 52-51, Forest and Jones combined to score the final six points to help Lower Merion grind out the 58-56 win.
“We have a motto called, ‘Attitude that we borrow from Villanova,’” Jones said. “If someone does something wrong they knew they made a mistake and we just say, ‘attitude’ and move on next play. We are used to close games, (Conestoga twice, Garnet Valley and now Penncrest). We just try to execute plays and be resilient. Jack (Forest) had great fourth quarter. We are just thankful to win”
Downer said, “They (Payne and Forest) are very important and they are two talented sophomores. I thought Steve covered Taylor (Norwood) to the best of his ability tonight. Norwood had to earn most of his points. He is just a phenomenal player. I thought Jack was key to our victory making two clutch free throws down the stretch. They are talented sophomores with a bright future.”
“Terrell is very seasoned,” added Downer. “He has seen it all in his four years here. He is our go to guy who made two big free throws tonight. He does it all for us. He dribbles, he rebounds, he passes and he scores. He’s kind of like our Magic (Johnson) and we count on him heavily.”
“Terrell is one of our big leaders,” added Payne. He is an all around player who does what he needs to do to help team win.”
Following the game, the team made it a point to take a picture with Coach Downer’s father who attended his first game in a few years. Once a mainstay at center court, it has been difficult for Mr. Downer to get to a game but after tonight’s win the team made sure to visit before heading to the locker room.
With a roster filled with plenty of youth, the senior leadership has been key to Lower Merion’s success.
“Our seniors have been very important,” said Payne. “They’re the seniors and the leaders of our team. They tell us what to do in crunch time situations they lead the team and stay calm.”
With a roster of talented underclassmen combined with key senior leadership, the Aces took a step in the right direction of another Central League playoff appearance.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply