‘Next Man Up’ mentality gives Lower Merion 2nd consecutive Central League title

Rosemont >> Since watching his team in the off-season as well as during pre-season, Lower Merion boys’ basketball coach Gregg Downer knew it had to be a total team effort if the Aces were going to make a deep post-season run.
With the team having to deal with early season injuries, the Aces had to turn quickly to the Next Man Up mentality in order to achieve success.
Tuesday against Penncrest, the Aces once again found themselves in position to earn a Central League championship as well as a high seed for the PIAA District One Class 6A tournament. And Lower Merion came through, defeating the Lions 48-46 in the Central League championship final at Harriton High School.
“This team has a very strong culture, and it starts with great seniors,” said Downer after the game. “We have been preaching ‘We over me’ for the entire year and the kids have bought in.”
In the championship final, with the score knotted at 46-46 in the closing seconds, Lower Merion’s Steve Payne took the ball from Darryl Taylor at the top of the key, drove the lane and kissed a tough running lay-up off the glass for the eventual game-winner with 2.6 seconds remaining.
“I just drove to the basket and saw the big man (Penncrest’s Matt Arbogast) step up and I knew I had to get it up over him,” said Payne, who finished with a team-high 18 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists. “I’m just happy it went in.”
Downer said, “I am very happy for him – but was worried that 2.6 seconds remained on the clock. [Penncrest coach] Mike Doyle is a great coach and that is plenty of time for them to score. Luckily, we defended last play well, and they did not score.”
Payne’s last-second heroics would not have been possible without key contributions from his teammates. Harrison Klevan picked up where he left off in the Central League semifinal, connecting on two important second half three-pointers. Josh Martin was key on the glass, collecting 10 rebounds. Darryl Taylor played tough defense along with going 6-for-7 from the free throw line and Jack Forrest chipped in with two important blocked shots in the fourth quarter.
“People have been stepping up all season and we just have this confidence in each other that someone is going to make a big play,” said Klevan, who finished with 13 points. “It’s exciting to be a part of this group of guys, there’s just a lot of belief in each other.”
Payne added, “It’s been great to see our seniors step up in key moments and big games. With all the illness and injuries that we have had this season, it has been huge to have people come through when we need someone. So many guys have had moments this year.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply