Ardmore – Packed house. Charged atmosphere. Hard-fought basketball contests. The aforementioned phrases were all used at some point during the course of the evening Jan. 6 to describe the Lower Merion – Harriton varsity basketball doubleheader held at Bryant Gymnasium.
With the crowd at fever pitch, the girl’s basketball contest was a back and forth one until the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. That’s when Lower Merion freshman Jasmine Forrester broke open a 45-44 game scoring eight consecutive points to give her team a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way en route to the 58-53 win.
“At the start of the season Jasmine was trying to fit in,” said first-year Lower Merion coach Monique Boynkins, who coached at Penn Wood prior to coming to Lower Merion. “I told the leadership group to help every freshman feel welcome and they have done a great job of doing that with Jasmine. I knew Jasmine would be a great player who would bring something to the team. Using a quote from Abraham Lincoln – Whatever you are, be a good one – and she’s a good one.”
“When I saw the packed crowd in the second half I wasn’t really nervous,” said Forrester. “I had confidence and I wanted to help my team win the game. Our leadership group has been great and helped me a lot. I was happy I could contribute tonight.”
With Lower Merion doing a good job of keeping Sophie Grady from beating them, the Rams needed another player to step up. Filling that role was senior Caroline DePillis who finished the night with a career-high 24 points (including six three-pointers).
“Caroline told me as a senior she wanted to enjoy the moments of her last LM game,” said Harriton coach Kacy McNichol. “She fed off the crowd’s energy and stepped up for us on both ends of the floor.”
“I always loved playing at Lower Merion,” said DePillis. “For some reason I have always played well in this gym. Our team needed someone to step up and fortunately I was able to knock down shots. It would have been big for us if we could have won tonight but the Lower Merion games are something I will remember the rest of my life.”
In the nightcap, the Harriton boys squad gave the hosts all they could handle before a late third quarter surge helped Lower Merion turn a 38-34 deficit into a 60-52 win. Playing a key part in the late surge was senior Terrell Jones who scored 11 of his 19 points during the run.
Helping Lower Merion stay within striking distance throughout the first three quarters was sophomore Jack Forrest, who finished with 13 points.
“Jack’s been tremendous for us to coach,” said Lower Merion assistant coach Kevin Grugan. “Tonight we needed some big buckets and I thought a turning point bucket was his drive spin lay-up. During a time-out I thought that would open a three-pointer for him and the next time down the floor he knocked down a three. We have tremendous kids to coach and Jack is right up there.”
“I have not played in a house like that before,” said Forrest, who also had six rebounds and two blocks along with his 13 points. “I was nervous at first but once the game started you settle in and play.”
Playing a key supporting role in helping Harriton give Lower Merion all they had was senior Kevin Sanchez who finished with eight points and three rebounds.
“The crowd had a lot of energy tonight and I knew I had to step up and keep my intensity up,” said Sanchez. “Playing in an environment like this was great. You live for this moment. I really enjoy these types of games. This game should give us a lot confidence going forward. Knowing we can go toe to toe with a team like Lower Merion shows us we can play against anybody.”
Always looking to hold The Hope Classic on a Friday evening, coach Kevin Grugan looked at the schedule and the Harriton game stood out. With the support of the administration and the coaching staff from both schools, the 3rd Annual Hope Classic, a fundraiser benefiting two organizations: the Angelman Syndrome Foundation and the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics, was played in front of a packed house.
“We always like to try and pick a Friday evening for this game,” said Grugan, whose daughter Hope lives with Angelman Syndrome. “One game that stood out was Harriton. Knowing the types of games we coached against them we knew it would be a packed house and hopefully raise a lot of money for Angelman Syndrome. They always play us tough and that’s a credit to their players and coaching staff.”
“The crowd at the Hope Classic was exactly what High school basketball is about,” said McNichol. “It was great to have students from both schools come out and show support.”
Angelman Syndrome is a rare neuro-genetic disorder that occurs in one in 15,000 live births. Characteristics of the disorder include developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures, and walking and balance disorders. Individuals with Angelman syndrome will require life-long care. There is currently no cure.
For more information regarding Angelman Syndrome, visit www.angelman.org or www.cureangelman.org.