Though they don't have a district crown, the Aces have known for a while their season wouldn't end Friday. The top eight teams in District 1 advance to the state playoffs beginning Saturday, March 10, and the Aces are the No. 2 seed of those.
Chester steadily increased its lead through the first three quarters, leading by eight after one, by 10 at half and by 12 with one quarter to play. The Aces stormed back and got as close as three, but Chester held on.
Below, read Patch's minute-to-minute updates from the game.
Remember, win or lose, the Aces open state tournament play Saturday, March 10, on the opposite side of the bracket as Chester, so District 1's top two seeds could meet again for the state championship.
9 p.m.—Team introductions, warnings to the crowd to behave, and the national anthem.
9:13 p.m.—Timeout Chester, who's up 12-8 with 3:38 left in the first. A few inopportune traveling offenses against Lower Merion.
9:20 p.m.—The first quarter is complete, with Chester up 17-9. It began with a steal and breakaway dunk by Lower Merion's B.J. Johnson, but Chester followed with four of the next five baskets, then added a few tip-ins, a three and a reverse layup. Darryl Reynolds buried a mid-range jumper and two foul shots for Lower Merion.
9:26 p.m.—Timeout Lower Merion. 21-9, Chester. Not many good bounces for the Aces, and Chester's been showing soft touch at the rim.
9:28 p.m.—Breaking news: The two teams' crowds are ... not the best of friends.
9:30 p.m.—With less than three minutes to go, Darryl Reynolds gets the Aces' first points of the quarter. Timeout Chester, who's up 22-11.
9:40 p.m.—Raheem Hall adds a couple baskets, including a half-court steal to breakaway dunk. Ten-point deficit at half. Stats in a bit.
9:48 p.m.—The Aces shoot around at halftime as St. Joseph's University men's coach Phil Martelli watches from under their basket.
9:52 p.m.—Reynolds gets a dunk in traffic, Chester counters with a three right away, then Reynolds sinks two foul shots. 31-22.
10 p.m.—The pace has picked up. Lower Merion has had some better possessions than in the second quarter, but the Chester lead has swelled to 13, 37-24.
10:03 p.m.—Chester misses two free throws, then Lower Merion misses two free throws. Chester gets a putback, Raheem Hall puts one in off the glass. Justin McFadden adds a smooth layup, followed by a Chester dunk. Yes, the pace has picked up. Timeout Chester, two minutes left in the quarter.
10:08 p.m.— Reynolds makes a jumper and the subsequent foul shot to make it 43-31, Chester, and the quarter ends like that. Lower Merion almost doubles its first-half scoring in the third, but its deficit increases to 12 with eight minutes left in regulation.
10:14 p.m.—Eight points for the Aces, six for the Clippers in two minutes of game time. Chester has 7 team fouls, Lower Merion 6. 49-39, Chester.
10:18 p.m.—Yohanny Dalembert hits both ends of a 1-and-1, then gets a steal and a layup before Chester counters with a layup. Aces down by 8, 4:25 left.
10:20 p.m.—Chester misses two free throws again, and the Aces have the ball with a chance to make a last push. And B.J. Johnson gets it going by swishing a jumper. Timeout, Aces down 6 with 3:59 left.
10:21 p.m.—Raheem Hall gets a steal and putback, then Lower Merion gets a takeaway and Chester fouls B.J. Johnson. He hits the first, misses the second. Chester scores in the paint. Aces down five. Whole crowd is bananas.
10:26 p.m.—Chester hits two at the stripe, then Mike Robbins spins in the paint and lays one in soft. Chester misses the front end of a 1-and-1 and Lower Merion is fouled to head to the line down five. McFadden makes one of two. Down four. 2:07 left.
10:28 p.m.—The teams trade steals, then Chester is fouled on a layup 1:48 to go and misses both (actually a Chester lane violation on the second). The vibe is getting nastier in the stands.
10:30 p.m.—Lower Merion travels with 1:30 to go, then commits a foul 60 feet from the basket for a two-shot foul. Chester makes both to go up 57-51 with 1:24 left.
10:32 p.m.—Lower Merion turns it over with 50 seconds left and is forced to foul, still down six with 46.8 seconds to go. Fans from both teams are streaming to the exits. Seems early for that. But Chester makes both at the stripe and takes an eight-pound lead. Lower Merion gets a layup with 34 seconds left and calls timeout, down six. They'll need Chester to get cold again.
10:35 p.m.—Chester up 60-53 and headed to the line, 13 seconds left. That'll do it. Chester adds another free throw and the clock runs out. Final score Chester 61, Lower Merion 53. The players shake hands and stay on the court for the postgame ceremony, certainly disappointed but knowing they're moving on to states in eight days.
10:40 p.m.—Lower Merion's student fans cheer from the upper deck as runner-up medals are draped around their classmates' necks on the court.