ROYERSFORD - Like many coaches, Spring-Ford’s Chris Talley feels the third quarter is where many basketball games are won or lost.
So even though his Rams trailed defending state champion Lower Merion, 42-35, at halftime, Talley felt it was the Aces’ 23-15 surge during the third quarter that spelled the difference in Lower Merion’s 84-66 victory in the District 1-AAAA consolation semifinal game Tuesday night at Ram Gymnastium.
The ninth-seeded Aces (20-7) put five players in double-figure scoring in a balanced display against the fourth-seeded Rams (23-4).
Both teams will still advance in seeding games for next week’s PIAA State Tournament. Spring-Ford, which will be making its initial trip to the state tourney in the 10-team qualifying field, will be back at home March 1 against No. 22 Central Bucks West.
“Like I said last game, I’m concerned with our effort on the defensive end of the court right now,” said Talley, the first-year Ram boss. “But give Lower Merion credit. They came in here and wanted it more than we did. At this point in the season, everbody is good. We’re just trying to push the right buttons to compete with the biggest boys on the stage.”
Justin McFadden paced the Aces with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including 10-for-11 free throw shooting. Corey Sherman drilled five 3-point field goals and 17 points while Jaquan Johnson had 12, Steve Pendleton 11 and Jule Brown 10.
Nick Stanek topped the Rams with 15 points while Drew Kakareka finished with 10, including a pair of treys. Gary Hopkins and Cameron Phillips each tallied nine, and Jake Freedman ended up with eight.
Spring-Ford turned the ball over 19 times, which led to a lot of easy baskets and points at the Lower Merion end of the floor. The Rams also forced 16 Lower Merion miscues, but they did not result in as many points for the hosts.
Spring-Ford held a 23-19 edge after the first eight minutes of play. But Lower Merion started flowing more in the second period, outscoring the Rams by a 23-12 margin. Sherman, a junior guard, nailed three consecutive 3-pointers to give the Aces a 36-28 lead with 3:15 remaining in the first half.
The Rams did counter that push with a 5-0 run as Staney hit a foul shot, Kakareka went inside for a basket and Stanek converted an assist by Ryan Cass to cut the deficit to three at 36-33 with 1:41 showing. The Aces finished the second stanza with a 6-0 run as McFadden scored off a move inside and then sank a pair of foul shots. Adran Levitt hit a layup off a feed from Sherman to give the Aces their 42-35 lead at the break.
The Aces opened the third period with a 13-4 run to take command at 55-41 with 3:01 on the clock. Brown and McFadden each had four points in the spree while Nick Jones buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Johnson made a layup.
“I felt we competed in the first half,” said Talley. “But the first five minutes of the third quarter, that’s where games are won, and that’s where games are lost. That was the turning point.”
McFadden also had three steals and one blocked shot. ... Brown had five boards and three assists, and Sherman had five rebounds and one assist. ... Johnson wound up with three assists, three rebounds and two steals, and Pendleton also handed out three assists while scoring nine of his points in the fourth quarter. ... Stanek grabbed eight rebounds and also had one block and one assist. ... Phillips had six boards, three steals, three assists and one block. ... Kakareka had four assists, four boards and two steals while Cass ended up with four boards and three assists.