Abington's Xavier "Lucas" Monroe works as hard in the classroom as he does on the basketball court. That's why the Abington junior has drawn recruiting interest from the prestigious likes of Colgate, Columbia, Lafayette, and Lehigh, among others.
"My parents have always stressed the importance of academics to me," he said. "I hate to get a report card and see a bad grade on it. I can't stand it."
With Monroe displaying his smarts and eye-catching versatility, the No. 2-seeded Ghosts topped No. 3 Lower Merion, 72-61, Tuesday night in a PIAA District 1 Class 6A semifinal at Temple's Liacouras Center.
The 6-foot-6, 190-pound combination guard delivered 11 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. He shot 5 for 7 from the floor, including 1 for 2 from beyond the arc. His three field goals in the middle two quarters came on putbacks.
Of his solid rebounding skills, he said, "I think it's just about determination. And I'm tall enough where I should be able to get inside and help my teammates."
Abington (21-5) moved closer to its second straight district championship and third in the last four seasons. The Ghosts will take on No. 1 seed Plymouth Whitemarsh (27-0) for top honors at 6 p.m. Saturday at Temple.
In Tuesday's nightcap, Plymouth Whitemarsh, which is ranked 19th in the country in USA Today's most recent Super 25, took a step toward its second crown in the last three seasons with a 68-46 romp over No. 4 seed Central Bucks West.
Naheem McLeod, a 7-2 junior center, and senior guard Ahmad Williams (three assists, three steals) ignited the undefeated Colonials with 21 and 16 points, respectively.
Monroe played AAU ball in in the offseason with Team Final. His teammates included Archbishop Carroll sophomore guard A.J. Hoggard and Shipley 6-10 junior center Ray Somerville. "You always want to test yourself against some of the best competition out there, and that's what we did," Monroe said.
Robbie Heath totaled a game-high 24 points, six assists, and three steals against Lower Merion. The senior guard shot 9 for 14 from the field 6 for 6 from the line.
Heath became the program's second-team all-leading scorer , upping his career point total to 1,536. He trails only 1975 graduate Richard Wright (1,681).
Abington's Eric Dixon, a 6-7 junior forward, produced 22 points, 12 boards (five on offense), two blocked shots, and a steal.
Unlike Monroe and Dixon, who has multiple Division I scholarship offers, Heath, an Australia native, has drawn little recruiting interest.
"That's really surprising to me," Monroe said. "He's such a big part of this team, a great defender, a dangerous scorer, and he sees the floor extremely well."
For the Aces, who were seeking their first district title since 1996, 6-5 junior wing Jack Forrest drilled five three-pointers en route to 21 points. Monroe guarded the long-range marksman most of the way.
"I wanted to force him left and make him drive to the basket," Monroe said. "He got loose a few times on screens and hit some threes."
Lower Merion 8 19 16 18-61
Abington 15 17 16 24-72
LM: Steve Payne 17, Harrison Klevan 5, Josh Martin 6, Darryl Taylor 9, Jack Forrest 21, Julian Hairston 3.
A: Robbie Heath 24, Darious Brown 4, Eric Dixon 22, Brandon Coffman 6, Lucas Monroe 11, J.P. Nolan 5.
Central Bucks West 5 12 13 16-46
Plymouth Whitemarsh 19 10 14 25-68
CBW: Jack Mulhearn 6, Mika Munari 9, Jake Reichwein 10, Collin MacAdams 8, Jack Neri 6, Stephen Delash 4, Connor Briece 3.