Prep, Lower Merion advance at Kobe Bryant Classic

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Miles Overton, here in the 2012 Chosen League, had 30 points on Thursday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Miles Overton (left), here in the 2012 Chosen League, had 30 points on Thursday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The first of two nights at the Kobe Bryant Classic brought some big performances by some unlikely stars as a pair of local powers took home impressive wins for different reasons. In a gym named after the same local-boy-turned-NBA-star that the tournament was named for,

Game One: Saint Joseph’s Prep v. Plymouth-Whitemarsh
A big game from ACC-bound Miles Overton powered Prep in their semifinal matchup as a huge run that spanned two quarters proved to be the difference maker as the Hawks downed the Colonials, 91-68.

Overton had 13 points in the first quarter, including a massive baseline dunk that drew a whistle and a massive roar from the crowd, en route to a game-high 30 points as he helped overcome a somewhat quiet night from teammate Steve Vasturia.

““I was just feeling it today,” said Overton, a 6-3 guard. “My teammates got me involved early, and we played very well on the defensive end and that just led to offense.”

Plymouth-Whitemarsh (3-5) kept it close early, trailing 20-16 after those opening eight minutes. St. Joseph’s Prep (6-1) extended their lead to 44-33 by halftime on the back of Overton, who had 18 at the break.

The Hawks scored the final six points in the first half and ripped off the first 12 after the break, taking a 56-33 lead just three minutes into the third quarter and effectively putting the game out of reach. Prep coach Speedy Morris would leave his starters in the game until 2:27 remained, at which point the lead was 85-59.

Vasturia, headed to Notre Dame in the fall, had 19 points but most came well after the game was in hand for the Hawks. He had just three in the first half and missed his first handful of shots; by the time he would connect for his fourth and fifth points in the third quarter the lead was 23 points.

“It’s not many times that we both have a cold game at the same time,” Overton said about Vasturia and himself. “When I saw him down a little bit I just tried to step it up a little bit. He played very well on Anthony McKie, so he did a good job on the defensive end.”

McKie, a senior guard with a lot of D-III interest, had 25 points to pace Plymouth-Whitemarsh; the Colonials also got double-digit effort from senior Michael Reddick, who had 12 points before fouling out with under a minute to go in the third quarter.

Lower Merion junior guard Jaquan Johnson (right) had a career-high 24 points on Thursday. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Lower Merion junior guard Jaquan Johnson (right) had a career-high 24 points on Thursday. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Game Two: Lower Merion v. St. Frances (Md.)
The hometown Aces ended the Panthers’ 12-game winning streak in emphatic fashion, taking an early lead and never getting it go in running their own win streak to six in a 73-62 victory.

Junior guard JaQuan Johnson picked a good time to drop in a career-high 24 points for Lower Merion (6-1), helping his team to improve to 1-1 against nationally ranked opponents this season.

“We scouted them, we saw that their transition defense was bad, so I was just on the leak-out and they were just easy buckets,” Johnson said. “I guess I’m pretty quick going left and they just couldn’t guard me going left, just couldn’t stop me.”

“It was great,” Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer told CoBL. “He’s really quick guard and he was getting to the hole, and quarterbacking the team and a career-high 24 points, so he was crucial tonight and arguably the best game of his career.”

The Aces’ season opener was a tough 70-62 loss to still-undefeated Neumann-Goretti, and some of the lessons learned in that earlier loss certainly paid off against a very talented Panthers squad on Thursday night.

“Well we were looking forward to playing another good team, and we learned some things from the Neumann game and tried to carry them over to tonight,” Downer said. “I don’t think the game was aesthetically really that pretty but we toughed it out and got a very important win against a team that I believe is 12-0.”

B.J. Johnson, a 6-7 Syracuse commit, had 25 points for Lower Merion, while fellow senior Yohanny Dalembert, a 6-8 forward, added 10; both had double-doubles with 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively.

Lower Merion benefitted from 17-of-21 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter, which helped them stay just a few points ahead down a stretch run that was extended by St. Frances’ fouls. For the game, the Aces shot 25-of-36 (69.4 percent) from the stripe.

“The foul shooting is really important. It’s a goal of ours to shoot 70 percent from the line; we’re not there yet but it’s something we’re constantly working on, constantly talking about.”

“We’ve lost a lot of games from free-throw shooting in the past,” JaQuan Johnson said. “We just had to get it right. In our practices we have to make 12 in a row sometimes, at the end of practice, and that prepared us a lot for it.”

The Panthers (12-1) have their own D-I bound senior in Tevon Saddler, headed to UNC-Greensboro next fall. Saddler scored 10 of his 13 points after halftime and added six points and two steals.

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