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Boys: Meekins, Pendergrass III power Lower Merion past Parkland

12/03/2022, 1:15am EST
By Corky Blake

Corky Blake (@corkyblake)

To ensure they’d make the most of their senior seasons while upholding the lofty tradition of Lower Merion basketball, Teddy Pendergrass III and Jordan Meekins got to work early upon the conclusion of their junior campaigns last March.

And we mean early.

“In late spring, me and Jordan were at all the 5 a.m. workouts,” Pendergrass III said.

If you can shoot, rebound and play defense at 5 a.m. – a time considered the middle of the night by most teenagers – then performing in a foreign gym more than an hour away on a Friday night should be a breeze.
It certainly was for Meekins and Pendergrass, who stepped out of the shadows of last year’s 27-4 squad that reached the PIAA Class 6A state semifinals to spark the Aces to a 72-57 season-opening victory at defending District 11 6A champion Parkland.

Meekins, a 6-foot-3 swingman, scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including four 3-pointers. Pendergrass III displayed utmost confidence in his shooting, contributing 12 points that featured a pair of pull-up 3s. The latter one came with one second left in the first half after Parkland had drawn to 28-27.

“I think my teammates knew what I could do and the same for Jordan,” Pendergrass III said. “I had a successful summer and fall. In the preseason, I had 19 (points) against Neumann and 10 against Shipley.”

Gregg Downer (above, last March) had a few new stars emerge on Friday night in Allentown. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“We have a lot of weapons, and tonight was a coming-out party for Meekins,” said veteran Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer. “He hasn’t played much for us, but he’s someone who we’re counting on. Sometimes, he can be inconsistent and lacks confidence so hopefully tonight can be good for him.”

Meekins’ emergence in Game 1 certainly will expand future opponents’ scouting reports, which start with stopping senior guards Sam Brown and Sam Wright. They are the primary holdovers for the two-time defending District 1 6A champions, which graduated Central League MVP Demetrius Lilley (Penn State), Jaylen Shippen (Clarion), Peter Gribbon and Henry Bard, now playing lacrosse at Duke.

Brown, the Penn commit who is a four-year starter and averaged 16.4 points a game last season, struggled with his shooting after spending most of the last few months sidelined with a fractured bone in his foot. He was 1-for-10 overall and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc but still contributed with 7-of-8 shooting from the foul line.

Wright was his usual steady self with 17 points (6-for-6 from the foul line) and rose to the occasion with eight points in the Aces’ 15-2 start to the second half that essentially put away the Trojans for good.

Meekins, who opened the second half with a 3, closed the third quarter with another 3 and a garbage-to-gold basket just before the buzzer for a 53-39 advantage.

“The key guy for us was Meekins giving us that cushion,” Downer said. “We’re counting on guys like him if someone else is cold like Sam (Brown) was with his shooting tonight.

“And our all-around best player tonight was Sam Wright. He is the epitome of what senior leadership is all about. He had a number of and-1s for us.”

Meekins treated his breakout game as just another day at the office.

“I was looking for my shot, but in the first half it wasn’t coming to me,” he said. “I waited for my turn and worked for it within the flow of the offense.”

Meekins said it’s too early to determine what his role will be this season.

“This is my first season getting minutes,” Meekins said. “Anything I can do to help the team.”

Junior guard John Mobley, another player light on varsity experience, provided an early jolt of energy. He was in the middle of mostly everything when Lower Merion outscored Parkland 12-2 over the final four minutes of the first quarter to establish an 18-9 lead. Without the 6-foot-10 Lilley no longer around to collect double-digit rebounds, the Aces must hit the boards in waves. Mobley was a tiger in the paint until he picked up his second and third fouls on consecutive defensive sequences early in the second quarter. Mobley drew his fourth foul early in the third quarter, but if he can stay out of foul trouble he’s a player who will make a difference for the Aces.

Other than junior guard Nick Coval, who finished with 27 points and is a regular on the high-level AAU circuit around Philadelphia, the Aces knew little about Parkland other than the Trojans didn’t have much experience around the mid-Division I recruit.

Winning on the road, though, should pay dividends down the road in league and postseason play.

“I’ve always believed in playing a tough, non-league schedule,” Downer said. “Our first seven games are on the road, and tomorrow we play 3:30 at West Chester Henderson.”

By Quarter
Lower Merion (1-0)  18  |  13  |  22  |  19  ||  72
Parkland (0-1)          9   |  18  |  12  |  18  ||  57


Lower Merion: Teddy Pendergrass III 12, John Mobley 6, Sam Brown 9, Jordan Meekins 20, Sam Wright 17, Owen McCabe 2, Andrew Coyne 2, Lamont Grier 2, Justin Mebane 2. 

Totals 23 19-22 72.
3-pointers: Meekins 4, Pendergrass III 2, Wright.

Parkland: Nick Coval 27, Matt Ray 14, Joey Gerbasio 6, Eddie Paz Romero 3, Luke Spang 3, Josh Pulver 2, Gio Escalona 2

Totals 19 12-15 52.
3-pointers: Coval 3, Ray 2, Spang, Paz Romero

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