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Lower Merion lays a 4-ply defeat on Garnet Valley

Garnet Valley's Carl Schaller, shown in an earlier game against Upper Dublin, scored 14 points Tuesday against Lower Merion, only five in the first half.

CONCORD >> Once Lower Merion opened up a five-point lead in the third quarter Tuesday night, Garnet Valley coach Mike Brown knew what was coming.

With no shot clock in Pennsylvania high school basketball, Brown knew the Aces would turn to their four-corners offense to try to chew up the clock in much the same way a football team does with its running game.

“We had the same idea,” Brown said. “If we could have gotten a lead mid-to-late first quarter, we would have gone more four corners. Both teams are hard to guard on a spread-out floor and they’re very good at it. They’ve been playing that offense for as long as I’ve been at Garnet Valley. You don’t want to get behind because they play it well and they make foul shots. And at the end, who are you going to foul? They all make their foul shots so they’re a tough team to get behind.”

Lower Merion used its four-corners offense to stretch its lead to 10 points after three quarters and pull away for a 56-41 victory over the Jaguars in the semifinal round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs.

The ninth-seeded Aces’ reward is a home game in the district final. They will host No. 14 Abington Friday night. The Ghosts knocked off seventh-seeded C.B. West in double overtime, 56-54.

“I know he has a good four corners, too, and we were worried that the first team that gets into the four corners with a little bit of a working margin might have an advantage,” Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer said. “We weren’t planning on doing it so much, but we were up five and then we stretched it to seven and eight and I just decided to stay in it. It is a great way to evaporate the clock.”

Lower Merion (10-4) was able to take the lead and go to its four corners because of its defense, especially against Carl Schaller and Justin Langan. Schaller finished with 14 points but nine came in the second half and seven after the Aces opened up a 10-point bulge.

The Aces used a combination of man and zone defenses to hold Schaller scoreless in the first quarter and to just five points in the first half.

“They really shut off the drive, cut off baseline whenever they could and pinched in the lane to the help,” Schaller said. “I went into the lane and got stripped twice. They had a good game plan.”

Langan picked up the slack early. He had 10 of his team-high 15 points in the first quarter. But then the Aces turned the heat up on him, too, and limited the 6-3 senior forward to five more points, which came in the fourth quarter.

“We all played incredibly hard,” Lower Merion guard Sam Davison said. “We moved our feet, unlike the previous game when we let them go by us. Today we just beared down and kept them in front of us and made it tough on them, even if they made a layup.”

Davison spearheaded that defensive charge and also was one of the point men, along with Jaylen Shippen and Sam Brown, when the Aces went to the four corners in the second half. He scored eight of his 15 points in the second half and several assists to 6-9 junior center Demetrius Lilly (18 points).

Late in the game, Garnet Valley was forced to foul and the Aces were near-perfect at the line down the stretch, going 9-for-10 there in the final three minutes. The only miss came on the back end of a one-and-one. But it was defense and the four-corners that got the Aces to that point.

“It really spreads out the whole defense and when we have two shooters in the corners (Zach Wong and Lilly) and three guys that can penetrate the defense, we can really get open looks,” Davison said. “That really works for us. If the corner defenders don’t help, we get an open layup. We really used that to our advantage tonight.”

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