The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

Downer’s dawgs dominate districts

The LM boys’ basketball team has exceeded expectations, winning the Central League, districts, and competing at states.

In the last three years, the LM boys’ basketball team has been a powerhouse, winning districts twice and then mak-
ing it to the districts semi-finals. These teams have been led by some exceptional talent; alumni Demetrius Liley ’22
now plays at Penn State University and Sam Brown ’23 plays at the University of Pennsylvania. However, this year’s team felt different. Having been led by two stellar senior classes the past two seasons and retaining only two return-
ing rotational players, many were uncertain of how the team would perform. Notably, not a single player has com-
mitted to college for basketball thus far. Yet, for the third time in the last four years, the Aces won the district title.
Led by John Mobley ’24, Owen McCabe ’24, and Adam Herrenkohl ’24, the Aces have clearly silenced all doubt-

LM cruised through the regular season, losing only one out- of-state matchup in 22 games, the squad earned themselves a first-round bye in the Central League playoffs. After beating both Marple Newton and Radnor in the semifinals and championship games by sixteen and fourteen points, respectively, the Aces landed a first-round bye in districts. This set them up to face the Conestoga Pioneers in the round of sixteen. Having already played each other multiple times, both teams were familiar with their respective qualities, making this a difficult matchup. After giving up a double-digit lead in the third quarter, the Aces and came back to win by six points in a low-scoring affair. Senior Brendan Styer, a Wilkes University commit and leader of the Pioneers, was held to only two points due to a stellar defensive scheme and phenomenal execution.

Moving onto the quarterfinals, the team was set to face Springfield, another familiar opponent from the Central League. Despite Springfield lacking any exceptional talent, head coach Gregg Downer reminded the team of their mantra: “respect every opponent, fear no one.” Springfield was in the middle of a run, upsetting both Abington and Bensalem in the previous two rounds. This was no contest for the Aces. Mobley, McCabe, Herrenkohl and Carson Kasmer ’25 all reached double figures in a dominant fifteen-point victory. Still, this matchup could not have prepared the Aces for what was to come in the next round: Chester High School.

LM and Chester’s historic rivalry was highlighted by the 2013 State Championship game, in which LM’s BJ Johnson, a former two-way NBA player, dispatched the Chester Clippers and retired NBA veteran Rondae Hollis Jefferson. Led by junior Dominic Toy, a 6’ 5” 215-pound three-star tight end headed to University of Connecticut next year for football, this season’s Clippers were not an opponent to take lightly. Noting this, the team held an “underdog mentality,” said Mobley, and devised a unique game plan to counter the athletic ability and aggressive defense from Chester. “We decided to start Gus [Wright ’25] to get more ball handling on the court in a game we knew we would deflate clock in spots,” said coach Downer. Despite the lack of height in the starting lineup, this decision to start Wright came in handy. After a slow start to the game in which Chester built an eight-point lead, the Aces clawed their way back to a three-point deficit to end the first quarter. Additionally, Toy committed two fouls, forcing the Chester Clippers to sit him the entire second quarter. Without his presence down low, the Aces were able to go on a run to amass a nine-point lead to close the half. However, the Clippers would not go out easily. As the team tried to kill the clock in the fourth quarter, Chester was able to chip away at the lead, tying the game up with two minutes to go. Fortunately, Herrenkohl drew a foul on the next possession, hit both free throws, and then proceeded to get a steal on the other end, essentially icing the game. After a series of fouls to stop the clock, the team closed out a six-point win. With their “main goal” to limit live-ball turnovers and foul early in transition, the team was able to “slow them down and stop any pressure that they were bringing,” ultimately contributing to their success, stated Mobley. 

After a very close call against Chester, the Aces faced the Garnet Valley Jaguars at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. Having already beat them twice, the Jaguars “had nothing to lose. One game was very close, so we knew they wanted to knock us off, as they were the Cinderella team. What we call that is playing with house money,” remarks Mobley. The Jaguars were the fourteenth seed in districts and upset Westchester Henderson, the second seed, in the district semifinals. With that said, Henderson was also missing Nelson Lamizana, a 6’ 6” senior and star player. They are a “well coached team, disciplined, [and] they play like us: in a way, very united,” commented Mobley. Still, according to Mobley, the team maintained the same goal to “start out strong and not let them get on a run.” To calm their nerves in a high-stakes atmosphere, Downer states “we [the team] listen to our favorite music and understand it’s just one of thirty games”. To start the game, the Aces surged to an 11-3 lead. Climbing up to a fifteen-point lead to start the second half, the Jaguars were able to fight their way back in the game. However, the Aces’ balanced scoring attack was just too much for Garnet to handle. Mobley led the team with seventeen points alongside Justin Mebane ’24, who took on a pronounced role hitting key shots, huge blocks, and a break-away dunk to seal an eight-point victory. This marked the third time beating Garnet Valley on the season, giving the Aces an outstanding record in the Central League: 21-0. 

As stated earlier, this was a different team from years past. According to Herrenkohl, “I think one big difference between this year’s team and last year’s team is the chemistry among the team. I think a lot of people can see it while we are on the floor but it comes from what we do off the floor. We’re constantly having fun at practice and we all genuinely enjoy [spending time] around each other and that translates to really good success on the floor.” Winning districts in a new fashion made it all the more worthwhile. “Winning the district is the best feeling ever as a player; everything you worked for in the off-season, during the season, it just all pays off, and when you win the district, we kinda look back and are just proud of ourselves from all we accomplished in the off-season,” says Mobley. “We all felt like we were getting revenge for last year after we lost in the district semi’s in a heartbreaker, and it was just an unforgettable feeling winning districts at Temple in front of a crazy dawg pound,” reflects Herrenkohl. According to McCabe, “not many people thought we would make it this far at the beginning of the season, so winning it felt even better.” Of course, the Aces fan base helps to stimulate all of this success. As stated by Mobley, “the support from our fans, community, students, teachers and the school has just been great, and I’m very appreciative towards that.” After steamrolling Cedar Crest in the first round of states, LM lost in a nailbiter to Archbishop Wood, led by seventh ranked senior in the nation Jalil Bethea. This marks the fourth straight season since the pandemic that LM has lost in states to a member of the Philly Catholic League. Although this was an unfortunate end to the season, the Aces will be back and ready to continue their annual dominance next season.

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