New Castle News


March 25, 2013

PIAA Championships: Lower Merion beats Chester for AAAA title

HERSHEY — His sweater spotted with drops of sweat, Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer emerged from his victorious locker room with a slight smile and a look of relief.

What a week it’s been for the Aces and their head coach. First Downer’s wife gave birth to a daughter on Thursday morning, then Lower Merion beat rival Chester on Saturday night to win a Class AAAA title.

B.J. Johnson had 22 points, and Jaquan Johnson’s hustle sparked Lower Merion’s defense late in the 63-47 victory that capped PIAA’s championship weekend.

“It’s been amazing. Arguably, some of the best 72 hours of my life,” Downer said. “I have a beautiful young daughter at home now, and I have my third gold medal for a group of incredible kids.”

And the program’s seventh overall — though this one might be more special because the Aces (30-3) beat the Clippers (27-4). It was a rematch of last year’s Class AAAA title game, won by Chester 59-33.

Lower Merion eliminated New Castle in the state semifinals, 67-63, at Williamsport High School.

The Clippers were saddled Saturday night by 31 percent shooting despite getting some good looks at the bucket. Still, Chester drew to within 43-38 early in the fourth quarter, and fans wondered if the Clippers would make a patented late charge.

Instead, Lower Merion got its revenge and snapped a three-game losing streak against its fellow southeastern Pennsylvania power.

“We just had a game plan to have fun out there,” Jaquan Johnson said.

Like when Johnson found Yohanny Dalembert (10 points, seven rebounds) for a dunk with 5:55 left.

Or when Johnson got a steal on Chester’s next possession and found Raheem Hall for a layup on the break to take an 11-point lead roughly 30 seconds later.

Lower Merion’s loud student section celebrated early in the stands. In the hallway under the Giant Center after the game, Dalembert carried the championship trophy over his head and swung it side-to-side as if he were protecting a rebound.

Chester’s 78-game winning streak against Pennsylvania opponents came to a halt. They were also held to a season low in points, thwarted in part by 1-of-13 shooting from 3-point range.

“Tonight just wasn’t our night. We seemed a step slow. We just couldn’t find that spark we needed,” Chester coach Larry Yarbray said. “The past three years we’ve won something like 105 games, and I’m proud of my guys for that. But tonight wasn’t our night.”

Rondae Jefferson had 12 points and 18 rebounds to lead Chester, while Richard Granberry had 10 points and 10 boards. The Clippers appeared to be the favorite in the PIAA’s marquee matchup of championship weekend.

But Lower Merion had the smooth, cool B.J. Johnson, who calmly handled Chester’s pressure. He finished 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 8-of-11 shooting from the foul line.

Last year, the 6-foot-7-inch forward, who plans to attend Syracuse, had seven points and six rebounds in the title game against Chester.

“He worked so hard the last 12 months to potentially gain this redemption,” Downer said of Johnson. “He’s really struggled against Chester ... For him, that type of performance when it counted was great for one of the finest players to ever play at Lower Merion.”

That’s quite the compliment considering Lower Merion boasts Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant among its alumni.

Lower Merion also tried shortening the game at times by playing a slow-down, four corners offense. Downer said he thought going into the game that Chester might be too physical for Lower Merion defensively.

The strategy paid off.

“If you play a team four times in two years, it’s hard to beat them every time,” Yarbray said. “They know what we want to do; we know what they want to do. Tonight was their night.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Aloi.jpg Aloi's PIAA eligibility hearing postponed

    The wait continues for Nick Aloi. Aloi, who transferred from Ellwood City Lincoln High to Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School on Jan. 21, still does not know if he will get to play a full season for the Leopards’ basketball team

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates.jpg Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers 12-7

    Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • ManzielJersey.jpg Manziel scores as NFL’s top-selling jersey

    Second on Cleveland’s depth chart, Johnny Manziel already tops one NFL list.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Huston.jpg Greg Huston: Pedro, Steelers' Training Camp and LeBron

    Pedro Alvarez’s throwing woes have not subsided after the All-Star break and he has become a defensive liability, especially late in games.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates.jpg Pirates beat Rockies 5-3 for 3-game sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsbur‘gh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies. Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • NC_Hoops.jpg Former Lady 'Canes stars reunite for tour of Europe

    Ryenn Micaletti and Abby Allen are headed to Europe. Micaletti and Allen — both members of the 2007 WPIAL Class AAAA girls basketball championship team — have joined forces with News Release Basketball to spend nearly three weeks in Germany and Belgium later this summer playing basketball and helping run clinics.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • pickle.tiff Pickleball players return

    Pickleball season is back, but some Neshannock Township residents said have no place to play.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • cutch.tiff Pirates Baseball: Resilient Bucs looking for post All-Star surge

    The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in an average, every day — if still heated — pennant race. A season after shedding the yoke of two decades of failure with a stirring run to a playoff berth, the Pirates are just another solid if not spectacular team trying to keep pace in the jam-packed NL Central.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rankin.jpg High School Basketball: Rankin responds to parents’ complaints at Sharon

    Jason Rankin is in the middle of a coaching controversy in Sharon. Albert Stovall and Tracy Austin questioned the Sharon High boys basketball coach’s strategies during a Sharon City School Board meeting on Monday.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Huston.jpg Greg Huston: Boosting the Buccos and — yep — LeBron, too

    The final road trip before the All-Star break was a bit of a downer, as the Buccos finished 2-5 in the seven games with the Cardinals and Reds, but no one should feel too bad about where they stand today.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

Shoot For 2
House Ads
Photo of the Day