Chester went into Lower Merion on fire, having won 14 straight games.
That streak ended as the Clippers gave the Aces everything they could handle, but No. 3 seed Lower Merion prevailed with a 67-59 victory over Chester in the PIAA District 1 Class 6A quarterfinals on Friday night.
Chester had Lower Merion on its heels after a 7-0 run cut the lead to one with two minutes left in the game. Darryl Taylor made two clutch free throws to give Lower Merion a 62-59 lead, and the Aces shot 5-for-6 from the line the rest of the way.
“It was kind of like a heavyweight fight,” Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer said. “Chester is very known for their flurries [of runs]. We made our free throws and got a couple of critical stops.”
Jack Forrest, a 6-foot-5 guard, led Lower Merion with a game-high 31 points. Forrest, a Columbia recruit, hit seven threes, and most of them with little space to spare.
After the Aces took a 39-37 lead at intermission, Forrest delivered 15 of the team’s 28 points in the second half.
“We always have to be aware of him going too many stretches without the ball,” Downer said. “I think we force-fed him the ball a little late, which was good, and he came up big.”
Senior guard Steve Payne scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half.
After Lower Merion beat Conestoga by nine on Tuesday, and survived against Chester, Downer thinks these types of games will prepare his team for the rest of the playoff run.
“We’re very battled-tested; 11 players on this ball club are seniors,” Downer said. “There’s not a lot this team hasn’t seen from a high school basketball perspective.”
Karell Watkins and Rahmaad DeJarnette paced Chester with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Lower Merion moves into the 6A semifinals against No. 2 seed Coatesville at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Temple University.
Chester, which still qualified for states with its win over Plymouth Whitemarsh on Tuesday, falls into the playback bracket and will play Tuesday.
Chester 18 19 9 13 - 59
Lower Merion 19 20 12 16 - 67
C: Karell Watkins 17, Michael Smith 10, Akeem Taylor 7, Zahmir Carroll 2, Rahmaad DeJarnette 16, Rahmee Gilbert 3, Javan Graham 4
LM: Jack Forrest 31, Steve Payne 15, Josh Martin 7, Theo Henry 5, Julian Hairston 2, Matt O’Connor 5, Darryl Taylor 2