Late in the first quarter, Demetrius Lilley took a feed from Jaylen Shippen and threw down a dunk.

Moments later, Lilley took another feed from Shippen and beat the buzzer with a three-pointer from the corner.

“He was tremendous tonight,” Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer said of Lilley, the Aces’ emerging sophomore star.

Lilley wasn’t alone. All of the Aces seemed on the top of their game in an imposing 64-40 victory over Penncrest on Tuesday night in a clash of Central league contenders at Bryant Gymnasium.

Demetrius Lilley of Lower Merion with the dunk vs. Penncrest.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Demetrius Lilley of Lower Merion with the dunk vs. Penncrest.

“I think that was our best all-around game,” Lower Merion senior swingman James Simples said. “We’ve had some good quarters and stuff, but I think we really put it all together.”

The 6-foot-4 Simples led the way with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Lower Merion (12-1 overall, 8-1 league), which won its 11th in a row.

Freshman guard Sam Brown, the son of 76ers coach Brett Brown, made three three-pointers and finished with 11 points and sophomore Peter Gribbin bounced off the bench to contribute 10 points.

But the talk of the night was the play of Lilley, a burly 6-8 athlete who generated 18 points with eight rebounds and three blocks. He showed presence in the paint, the ability to handle the basketball and a deft shooting touch, making both of his three-point attempts and both of his free throws as well.

“I’ve come a long way,” said Lilley, who transferred to Lower Merion this year after spending his freshman year at Church Farm School in Exton. “I used to be a big guy. Working with the Aces got me slimmer.”

Lilley’s emergence combined with steady play from Simples and the growth of some of the younger players has the Aces heading into the run for the playoffs on a serious roll.

That was evident against Penncrest (12-3, 6-3), which has been one of the Central League’s strongest squads this season.

Veteran coach Gregg Downer of Lower Merion said his team probably played its best half of the season vs Penncrest.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Veteran coach Gregg Downer of Lower Merion said his team probably played its best half of the season vs Penncrest.

But playing its fourth game in six days, Lower Merion seized command in the first half, building a 37-13 lead at the break.

“That was probably our best half,” Downer said. “The 37-13 is not what you expect against a quality opponent like Penncrest.

“We were clocking on all cylinders, we were moving the ball, we were doing some good things on defense.”

James Simples of Lower Merion goes up for a shot against Justin Potts of Penncrest.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
James Simples of Lower Merion goes up for a shot against Justin Potts of Penncrest.

Simples, one of just three seniors in the regular rotation, controlled the game with his versatile play. He was a force at the defensive end and regularly knifed into the lane on offense, finishing at the rim or dishing to teammates for open looks.

“He does have great versatility,” Downer said of Simples. “He can rebound. He can defend. He can get to the rim. He’s very, very strong.”

Jaylen Shippen of Lower Merion (second from left) and Marquis Tomlin of Penncrest (right) battle for a loose ball.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Jaylen Shippen of Lower Merion (second from left) and Marquis Tomlin of Penncrest (right) battle for a loose ball.

Lilley said the Aces’ success on game night springs from the team’s work in practice.

“We’re playing with lot of confidence,” Lilley said. “It all starts in practice. We work so hard in practice. No days off for the Aces.”

Penncrest 11 2 13 14 – 40

Lower Merion 21 16 13 14 – 64

PC: Ben Stanton 6, Marquis Tomlin 11, Justin Potts 4, Denzel Quinn 9, Denzel Boyer 10.

LM: Eli Rothman 2, James Simples 15, Lance Chestnut 4, Jaylen Shippen 2, Peter Gribben 9, Demetrius Lilley 18, Sam Brown 11, Justin Poles 3.