By Bruce Adams
Lower Merion began its PIAA Class AAAA boys’ basketball state tournament opener Saturday with a bang, jumping out to an 8-2 lead against Simon Gratz and holding a 30-24 advantage at halftime.
Though Gratz caught up to Lower Merion in the third quarter, the Aces led most of the second half. So when the game went into overtime, LM head coach Gregg Downer still felt his team had the momentum.
“We hadn’t lost a game in overtime all season, and I thought we were going to win it all the way to [the final buzzer],” said Downer.
In an overtime period which featured seven lead changes – and a few turnovers – Gratz came out on top, 63-61, ending Lower Merion’s season.
It was the final game for 6-foot-8 senior Jeremy Horn, who will be playing basketball for Division 3 Claremont (Calif.) next winter, and KJ Helton – both finished with 16 points. Horn’s inside presence was a constant thorn in the side of Gratz (he grabbed 11 rebounds), and Helton often seemed to be in the right place at the right time with a key basket, assist, free throw (he was 7-of-8 from the charity stripe) or recovered loose ball.
“We had a great season – showed a lot of character and a lot of fiber,” said Downer. “It’s never easy when [the season is] over – I don’t know if it would have been tougher with a 20-point loss instead of a two-point loss.”