The Lower Merion High School boys’ basketball team has played in the PIAA state tournament each of the last 12 years — the longest current consecutive streak in Pennsylvania for boys’ basketball — so for the Aces, the team’s motto of “Tradition Never Graduates” rings true.
“We try to keep the bar, the expectations, the same every year,” said Lower Merion boys’ basketball coach Gregg Downer, who has amassed three PIAA state championships and more than 600 wins during his three-plus decades with the Aces. “The names change, but the ‘Next Man Up’ mentality never changes.”
Last winter, the Aces, led by Central League MVP Demetrius Lilley, captured their second consecutive District 1 6A title – the first time Lower Merion had won back-to-back district championships since the 1940s. They also advanced to the PIAA 6A state semifinal for the second consecutive year.
The Aces return several key players this winter, led by 6-foot-2 senior guard Sam Brown, the son of former Sixers coach Brett Brown. Last winter, Brown, a first team All-Central League and All-Main Line pick, averaged 16.4 ppg, hit 66 treys (made 40 percent of his attempts), pulled down 3.3 rpg and converted 77.8 percent of his free throws.
“Sam’s a dynamic three-level scorer,” noted Downer.
Also returning is 6-foot-1 senior guard Sam Wright, a second team All-Main Line selection last winter who averaged 13 ppg during the PIAA tournament; and 6-foot-1 senior guard Justin Poles.
“Both of these guys are great athletes, ready for a big senior year,” said Downer.
Three other seniors who should see action are 6-foot forward Andrew Coyne, 6-foot-3 guard Jordan Meekins and 6-foot guard Teddy Pendergrass III, grandson of the late R&B superstar.
“Andrew is a hard worker who leads by example,” said Downer. “Jordan is an emerging player and a dynamic athlete and Teddy is a great athlete who’s ready for a big year.”
Two juniors who could make an impact at the guard position are 6-foot-1 John Mobley and 5-foot-9 Owen McCabe.
“John is a Swiss army knife – good at everything,” said Downer. “Owen had a great off-season and is ready to contribute.”
Downer likes the depth and versatility of his squad.
“We have a lot of inter-changeability,” said Downer. “Our biggest challenge will be a tough schedule, and overcoming cold shooting nights.”
Lower Merion opens the season against Parkland Dec. 2 and other non-league games include West Chester Henderson, Coatesville, Germantown Academy and West Chester East. The Aces will face Chester in the Pete & Jameer Nelson Classic at Widener University on Dec. 30.
The Lower Merion High School girls’ basketball squad includes some fine athletes on its roster for the 2022-23 season.
“We are a super athletic team,” said Lower Merion girls basketball head coach Erin Laney. “We will surprise a few teams with how well we run in transition. Also, our team attitude is the most competitive it’s been in years.”
Leading the way will be a couple of seniors who received All-Main Line honorable mention last winter, 5-foot-9 forward McKenna Reardon and 5-9 guard/forward Eva Taberski. Reardon was the Aces’ leading scorer and rebounder last winter (6.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Taberski was LM’s second-leading scorer and rebounder (5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg).
Other returnees include 5-foot-4 senior guards Taryn Kimmel and Laila Stevens (who led the Aces in assists last winter) and 5-foot-9 junior forward Alex Dore, who led the squad in field goal percentage.
Other players to watch include 5-foot-4 sophomore guard Amaria Brownlee, 5-foot-2 freshman point guard Alexa Braslow, 5-foot-11 sophomore center Megan Walters, 5-foot-7 senior guard Gabby Jarvis, 5-foot-2 senior point guard Morgan Debreaux, 5-foot-6 senior guard Ava Santilli and 5-foot-7 senior guard Ella Rumsey.
“We’re a small team in stature, consistent rebounding will be a challenge,” said Laney. “Boxing out has to be a priority. We have new players who will be getting significant minutes; figuring out that team dynamic might take a few games.”
The Harriton High School boys basketball team returns three starters in 6-foot-3 senior forward Jack Chadkowski, 6-foot-3 junior guard Marquis Kubish (7.8 ppg last winter) and 5-foot-10 junior guard Jadyn Gaskins (7.8 ppg last winter). Another returnee is 5-foot-10 senior point guad Aidan Abrams.
Other Rams to watch include 6-foot-2 sophomore shooting guard Calvin Smith, 6-foot-3 junior forward Cam Sullivan and 5-foot-10 senior guard Collin Goerlich.
“We are starting the season with some tough injuries,” said Harriton boys basketball head coach Jesse Rappaport. “We are hoping to get people back healthy and start to use our quickness and conditioning, to make up for a lack of height.
“Radnor and Lower Merion seem to be the teams to beat in the Central League, especially with their latest transfers.”
The Harriton girls basketball team, which posted a 16-11 record last winter and advanced to the District 1 tournament, has a new coach in Brian McCloskey and a relatively young squad.
Top returnees for the Rams include 5-foot-8 junior guard Felicity McFillin, 5-foot-6 junior guard Sophie Kasmer, 5-foot-8 sophomore forward Maddie McFillin and 5-foot-4 junior guard Alexis Kanzinger.
McCloskey, who was the assistant coach for the Swarthmore College women’s basketball team last winter, said, “Our outlook on the year is going to be one we control and based on what we want to do during practice and games — if we want to adjust or not. We can certainly get out in transition, knock down shots, play tough defense, be physical and have that next play mentality. Our biggest challenge is our height, we have no true center but that can be a blessing and curse.”
Other Rams to watch include 5-foot-6 freshman guard Maddie Bacine and 5-foot-7 sophomore guard/forward Tilly May.
McCloskey said, “I truly see Springfield, Haverford and defending champ Garnet Valley being the teams to beat in the Central League, but I’m not going to sleep on Radnor, Marple, and even others like Penncrest and Conestoga who are young like us.”
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