Sheba Hall had been saving herself for this time of year. So, it seems, had the Lower Merion girls’ basketball team.
There were those glimpses into just how good and just how far the Lady Aces could go this season. The signs were certainly there, like going undefeated in winning the Central League for the second time in three years. Like beating teams they weren’t supposed to beat, like , and earlier this week, District 3 champion .
And then this. Then the totally unexpected. It’s not so much that Lower Merionbeat area and state powerhouse Cardinal O’Hara—it’s how the Lady Aces mauled them that was so impressive. Lower Merion suffocated almost everything O’Hara tried to do in pulling off a thoroughly dominating 43-29 victory Friday night at Wissahickon High School, in what a month ago might have been considered an upset, but not any longer.
The Lady Aces made program history in the process, advancing to the state semifinals for the first time. What made it even sweeter was beating O'Hara, the very team that stopped them two years ago from making the PIAA Class AAAA final four.
Lower Merion, now 25-5, will play two-time defending state champion Mount Lebanon Tuesday night at a site and time to be determined. Mount Lebanon avenged its earlier upset by beating Shaler in the state quarters. In the meantime, the Lady Aces were basking in a victory only they thought they could achieve.
Hall, the quicksilver all-everything point guard bound for Manhattan, led all scorers with 15 points, followed by nine points from Jessie Porter and five points each from Lila Jones and Carmen Torres. Rosie Stahler, Carli Swartz, Porter, Hall and Jones applied strong defense as well.
“I guess you might say I’ve been saving [the best] for last,” said Hall, who suffers from compartmental syndrome that has limited her minutes. “I know this is my last year and I’m just playing. This is some urgency here and it’s what is pushing me. I’m pretty sore, but I feel pretty good. I think the fact that having people doubt us we get to prove people wrong. We’ve shown we have everything to win and nothing really to lose. I think that was the way we came out at O’Hara tonight, plus revenge from two years ago that lost to O’Hara.”
No other Lower Merion girls’ basketball team has reached the state semifinals.
“It feels great, because no one thought we could do this,” Jones said. “We knew we could do this. I think it was a matter of applying what we knew and doing it in the game. Now we’re a part of history and it feels great. It was just a matter of staying with our defense and we didn’t give up.”
Lower Merion scored the first five points of the game, only to see O’Hara respond with 11-straight points. After a Hall free throw early in the third quarter gave Lower Merion a one point lead, the Lady Aces took firm control. Lower Merion led by as much as 14 points, breaking down a team that scores almost 50 points a game to less than 30.
“No one believed in us, except us,” said Swartz, a senior. “We needed to prove something to ourselves after the districts and I think we have.”
Correction: A previous version of this story provided an incorrect point total for Jessie Porter.