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Lower Merion falls to Roman Catholic in PIAA 6A boys basketball state semifinal

Caln >> Facing one of the top-rated high school boys’ basketball teams in the United States in the PIAA 6A state semifinals Saturday, Lower Merion came out of the gates on fire, opening up a 22-9 lead early in the second quarter against Roman Catholic.

Unfortunately for the Aces, Roman caught up to Lower Merion by the middle of the third quarter, and pulled away in the final period for a 53-41 victory.

The loss ended the season for the Aces (27-4) and it marked the end of senior Demetrius Lilley’s illustrious Lower Merion career.

The 6-foot-9 Penn State-bound senior scored 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots in his final Lower Merion game. Midway through the third quarter, after hitting a trey that put the Aces ahead 28-27, Lilley fell to the floor, and was down for about a minute. But eventually he got back up, returned to action, and battled the rest of the way.

“Demetrius is the second-most dominant player I’ve ever coached,” said Lower Merion head coach Gregg Downer, who has led the Aces to three PIAA state titles in three decades. “I don’t ever expect again to coach someone as dominant, and the other dominant one [Kobe Bryant] is in the Hall of Fame.”

Six of Lilley’s points were in the first quarter when the Aces took a 13-4 lead. Some strong rebounding by Lilley and senior Jaylen Shippen (who had five rebounds Saturday) helped limit Roman Catholic to one shot on many of their first-period possessions.

Meanwhile, LM junior guard Sam Wright hit a trey from the top of the key and Lilley hit a couple of putbacks to give the Aces a 9-4 lead.

Following a Roman travelling violation, Wright (who finished with 14 points), drove to the basket made it 11-4 with 1:19 to go in the period; then after a missed Roman shot from outside, LM junior Sam Brown nailed a turnaround jumper off the dribble just before the buzzer to put the Aces up 13-4.

A trio of Lower Merion treys, from Lilley, Shippen and Brown, gave the Aces their biggest lead of the day at 22-9.

During the first three quarters, Lower Merion limited University of Cincinnati-bound senior guard Daniel Skillings, who was Roman Catholic’s leading scorer during the season, to just two points.

Downer said, “Henry Bard was covering [Skillings] and we thought that we had some good defensive principles against him, [Xzayvier] Brown and [Khalil] Farmer – we were focusing on their three Division I players.”

Roman, trailing 22-9, then went on an 11-1 run in the last five minutes of the second quarter to cut the Aces’ lead to 23-20 at intermission.

Roman Catholic took the lead for the first time in the third quarter when Farmer hit a three to put the Cahillites up 27-25. The game continued to seesaw back and forth in the third quarter. A trey by Wright (he finished with three) and a mid-range basket by Sam Brown gave the Aces a 33-29 lead with 3:07 to play, and Roman called time out.

Both Farmer and Roman 6-foot-8 freshman forward Shareef Jackson worked their way inside for baskets to give Roman Catholic a 36-33 lead. With 52.5 seconds left in the third period, Wright hit two free throws to cut Roman’s lead to 36-35.

For the next seven minutes, Lower Merion did not score a point. A combination of missed Lower Merion shots and turnovers were followed by productive Roman drives to the basket. Two quick Roman layups within seconds of each other allowed the Cahillites to build a 48-35 lead with 1:37 left.

Just 19 seconds later, Shippen broke the Aces’ scoring drought with a trey from the left corner, and a few seconds after that Wright hit his third trey of the game (and the Aces’ eighth of the contest) to cut Roman’s lead to 50-41 but only 48 seconds were left.

Downer said, “We got off to a good start today, but arguably at the worst time we probably had our worst fourth quarter of the year. For some reason we were stuck on 35 points for some time, for some reason we got cold, we couldn’t find any buckets. They’re a great opponent with three Division I players running around, so you really can’t have those lulls against them.

“We had a lot of illness on the court today, Demetrius didn’t feel well, Sam Wright hasn’t been feeling well, Jayden Shippen hasn’t been feeling well. I’m not using that as an excuse but it didn’t look like we had our normal juice.”

 

“This team was fun to coach; they don’t complain, they get along, there’s no drama, and they took us on a great 31-mile journey – 27 wins, four losses. I would have loved to have gotten to Hershey, but we fell a little bit short.”

 

Roman Catholic 53, Lower Merion 41

Roman Catholic           4       16     16     17     –        53

Lower Merion              13     10     12     6       –        41

Roman Catholic scoring: Skillings 3 0-0 6, X. Brown 6 4-7 17, Farmer 3 3-6 11, Q. Brown 4 0-0 10, Ojukwu 2 1-2 6, Jackson 1 1-1 3, Totals 19 9-16 53.

Lower Merion scoring: Shippen 2 0-0 6, Poles 0 0-0 0, Gribbin 0 0-0 0, Brown 3 0-0 7, Lilley 5 2-4 14, Bard 0 0-0 0, Wright 4 3-4 14, Totals 14 5-8 41.

Three point goals: Roman Catholic – X. Brown, Farmer 2, Q. Brown 2, Ojukwu. Lower Merion – Shippen 2, Brown, Lilley 2, Wright 3.

 

 

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