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Central League Playoffs: Radnor, Lower Merion boys set up championship rematch

02/10/2024, 8:45pm EST
By Owen McCue

By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
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When Radnor senior Kessy Cox perused through a preseason article on the Central League earlier this winter, he couldn’t find any mention of the league’s defending champions. 

Under favorites? Nope. Dark horses? Nope. Players to watch? Nope.

He sent the link to the team’s group chat with the note: “Let’s keep this with us throughout the year.”


Radnor senior Kessy Cox scored 15 points in Saturday's semifinal win over Conestoga. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Continuing to carry a chip on its shoulder, No. 2 Radnor downed No. 3 Conestoga, 55-50, in Saturday’s Central League semifinal. Despite graduating four starters and a few others from the rotation of last year’s team that won the program’s first league title in at least 50 years, the Raptors will be back in the Central League title game for the third straight year.

They'll face perennial power and top seed Lower Merion on Tuesday a 7:30 p.m. at Marple Newtown High School — a rematch of the last two title games.

“We’ve been using that as motivation everyday for sure, just working hard,” said Cox, a Villanova lacrosse commit. “Everyone overlooked us. Everyone was like, oh they lost everyone, which I have to admit we lost great players for sure. That’s nothing to hide. But they didn’t know about these kids last year who were working their a— off at practice ready to step up in to those roles.”

Radnor senior Elijah Sellers scored 18, followed by Cox with 15. Junior Ben Robinson scored 14 points, senior Westin Fryberger scored 13 and sophomore Rowan Miller had 11 for Conestoga.

The Raptors led 22-21 at halftime with no team leading by more than three after an early 6-2 Pioneers advantage. Cox and Robinson both had nine in the first half.


Radnor senior Elijah Sellers had eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL0

The lead exchanged hands four times in the first three minutes after the break before Radnor seized control with a 10-1 run — an and-one by Cox followed by a bucket from senior Owen Smith pushing the lead to eight. 

“Everything just starts with our defense,” Cox said. 

“When we’re really locked in on defense, we’re a really hard team to score on.”

A 34-27 Radnor lead grew to 11 early in the fourth as Sellers got going. He scored eight in the final period. Fryberger had eight of his own in the final period to make things interesting late.

Junior Sawyer Smith went to the line for Radnor with his team up 53-50 and 14.2 seconds left looking to put the game away. He missed both, but stole the ball back and put in a quick layup to redeem himself and help the Raptors avoid a potentially game tying attempt.

Seniors Michael Savadove (Harvard lacrosse commit) and Henry Pierce are the only players back from last season’s Central League championship rotation. Cox, Sellers and the rest have waited their turn to play in big games on the hardwood.

He’s been a part of three state champion lacrosse teams, however, alongside Savadove, Pierce and Owen and Sawyer Smith, so they’ll be ready for the big stage of Thursday’s title game against Lower Merion.

“We’ve been very successful, and that’s definitely helped us knowing what the environment, knowing the little things we gotta do,” Cox said. “The big moments in lacrosse are very important in us being ready for a big environment like that, big game down the stretch.”

Radnor 55, Conestoga 50

By Quarter

C:  8 | 13 | 6 | 23 || 50
R:  9 | 13 | 12 | 19 || 55

Scoring

C: Ben Robinson 14, Westin Fryberger 13, Rowan Miller 11, Brendan Syer 5, Sam Gibbs 3, Sean Mackey 2, Cory Hogan 2.

R: Elijah Sellers 18, Kessy Cox 15, Sawyer Smith 9, Henry Pierce 8, Michael Savadove 3, Owen Smith 2.

~~~

Lower Merion locks up Marple Newtown

Adam Herrenkohl didn’t envy Matt Gardler on Saturday afternoon.

Through rec and travel teams growing up, Herrenkohl had been stuck in teammate Owen McCabe’s clamps before. It’s not a fun place to be.

“Owen guarding me is maybe the worst thing off all time,” Herrenkohl said.

Top-seed Lower Merion used a box-and-one to slow Marple Newtown’ star junior Gardler in Saturday’s Central League semifinal. McCabe was his shadow all game long.

The strategy proved effective as the Aces took advantage of a slow Tigers start on the way to an 80-64 victory. The win sends Lower Merion back to its third straight championship game, seeking its sixth league crown in eight years.


Lower Merion senior Owen McCabe scored 16 points and had a key defensive assignment in Saturday's win over Marple. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)

“Matt’s a tremendous player,” McCabe said. “I’ve played against him for years. The game plan was to just be on him the whole time, make his job harder and I just tried to do the best I could on him.”

Herrenkohl led Lower Merion with 24 points, exploding for 17 in the first half. McCabe added 16 to go along with his effort on the defensive end.

Gardler was coming off a 32-point outing in a first-round playoff win over Garnet Valley, sending his team to the semifinals with a buzzer beater. On the rare occasion, he shook McCabe to get the ball Saturday, he was immediately met with a double team. Lower Merion scored the first eight points of the game and jumped ahead by 10 early as the Tigers adjusted. 

Marple senior PJ Esposito, who matched Herrenkohl with 24, got his team within one by the end of the third quarter, but Herrenkohl took over in the second quarter to pull the Aces away again. He had 13 in the period, including a pair of threes. Junior Carson Kasmer added 11 of his 15 points in the first, including three triples, as Lower Merion expanded its lead to 42-30 at the break, leading by as many as 17 in the period.

“He’s the best,” McCabe said of Herrenkohl. “During the summer, I knew he was going to take a ginormous step ahead in his career, and he’s just playing lights out right now. I’m so happy for him.”

The Tigers had the daunting task of playing catch-up against Lower Merion and its four-out offense the rest of the game and though they got to within eight points a few times, the Aces led comfortably the rest of the way.  Senior forward Jayden Robinson gave Lower Merion a fourth double-figurer scorer with 13 points. He had eight in the third, coming up with an answer every time Marple tried to go on a run.

After scoring just four points in the first half, Gardler slipped away a few times in the second half for 15 in the game, including eight in the fourth. Tigers senior guard Steven Tansey scored 11.

The Aces may not have entered the season as the clearcut favorites in the Central League, but they’ve been the top dogs all season long. The hope is to finish off the job and add a 23rd year to the league championship banners at Kobe Bryant Gymnasium.

“We’re really excited that we have this opportunity, and we’re just really ready for Tuesday night,” Herrenkohl said.

Lower Merion 80, Marple Newtown 64

By Quarter

MN:  12 | 18 | 19 | 15 || 64
LM:  17 | 25 | 17 | 21 || 80

Scoring

MN: PJ Esposito 24, Matt Gardler 15, Ryan Keating 8, Steven Tansey 11, David Bertoline 5, Andrew Cappello 2, Jack Dean 2.

LM: Adam Herrenkohl 24, Owen McCabe 16, Carson Kasper 15, Jayden Robinson 14, John Mobley 8, Gus Wright 4.


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