|Staff photo by Tom Kelly IV/Lower Merion's Yohanny Dalembert throws down a dunk during the Aces' 61-35 victory over Great Valley in the District 1 Class AAAA semifinals on Tuesday night.|
By PETER DiGIOVANNI
PHILADELPHIA -- The worst thing that could have happened to the Great Valley boys basketball team occured Tuesday night in the District 1 Class AAAA emifinals against No. 2 Lower Merion at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. The third-seeded Patriots got behind by a large margin early and could never recover as the Aces adavnced to Friday night’s final with a convincing 61-35 triumph.
Lower Merion put three players in double-figures and got a big game fromn 6-foot-9, Yohanney Delembert, who led the Aces (27-2) with 16 points to go along with nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Dalembert, who had a huge size adavantage on the Great Valley (26-2) big men, controlled the boards from the outset.
"We thought we had an advantage underneath because of the size difference," Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer said. "Yohanney had about four or five inches on 23 (Nate Cohen) and he did some good things for us tonight.
"I thought it was critical for us to get that big cushion early and make them play from behind. I did not view Great Valley as a Cinderalla team. I knew they were very good and very well coached, but that big early lead got us going."
Dalembert scored six first-period points to help the Aces to a 16-7 lead after one. Great Valley had a tough shooting first half, going five for 20 from the field, and not getting offense from anyone other than Mikal Bridges, who led the Patriots with 16 points.
As if the talented Aces needed any more help, Corey Sherman came off the bench to score 10 points in the second period. Sherman drained two long 3-pointers and hit on a runner in the lane to make it a 26-9 Lower Merion late in the half. Great Valley shot just two-for-10 in the second and trailed the Aces at halftime 29-11. Lower Merion shot an astounding 60 percent (25-for-42) on the night. They were 11 of 19 (58 percent) in the first half.
"I have been getting more and more playing time as the season has gone on," Sherman said. "And tonight, I wanted to come in and give us a spark and my shots just went down."
The third period belonged to the point guard, Jaquan Johnson, who scored eight of his 14 points right after the break. After a Dalemebert slam dunk to make it 33-11, Johnson scored on a follow to push the lead to 24. After a Great Valley turnover -- one of five in the third -- Johnson slashed to the hoop to make it 37-11. Lower Merion went on to a 45-22 lead after three and the Patriots’ dream of going to the district final was done.
"We just got too far behind them early," Great Valley coach Jim Nolan said. "They are just so good and they hurt us with their size inside. They just have so many weapons tyo stop it makes it tough. But that being said, if we hit our shots early, we would have been right in the game.
"The kids are down right now, but we have no time to be down. We have to pick right back up and get ready for Friday."
Great Vallery shot the ball better in the fourth, going six-for-14 and getting four points from sophomore Ryan Buchholz off the bench, and a 3-pointer from Julian Alston.
The Patriots will host No. 5 Abington in the third-place game, Friday night at 7 p.m.
Lower Merion 61, Great Valley 35
GREAT VALLEY: Bridges 7 1-1 16, Sherry 1 0-0 5, Cohen 1 0-0 2, Geiss 0 0-0 0, Gregory 1 0-0 3, Buchholz 2 0-0 4, Alston 1 0-0 3, Ames 2 0-0 4, Miller 0 0-0 0, Dickinson 0 0-0 0, Strang 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 1-1 35.
LOWER MERION: Dalembert 7 2-2 16, Johnson 7 0-0 14, Johnson 2 3-4 8, Hall 3 0-0 6, McFadden 2 0-0 5, Sherman 3 2-2 10, Cotler 1 0-0 2, Howland 0 0-0 0, Shapiro 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 7-8 61.
Great Valley 7 4 11 13-35
Lower Merion 16 13 16 16 -613-point goals: Sherry, Gregory, Bridges, Alston, Johnson, Sherman 2, McFadden.