Last spring, as a way to stay in shape for basketball, Andrew Diehl decided to compete in the high jump for Conestoga's track and field team.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder picked up his new pursuit in rapid fashion, placing second in the PIAA District 1 championship meet and eighth in states. "It ended up being a hidden talent," he said with a laugh.
Displaying that leaping ability and strong overall skills, Diehl netted a game-high 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to spark the Pioneers to a 51-47 triumph at Lower Merion in a Central League matchup Friday night.
The senior wing nailed back-to-back three-pointers, one from very deep, in the last 21/2 minutes to keep the Aces, whose only lead came on their first bucket, from pulling off a comeback at Kobe Bryant Gymnasium.
After Corey Sherman hit a three from up top to cut Conestoga's lead to 42-41 with 3:10 remaining, Diehl, a second-year starter, answered with the same. His second three-pointer made it 48-43 with 1:18 to go.
"I was pretty confident on those shots," said Diehl, who will likely attend Princeton and concentrate on the high jump there. "I knew the team needed a lift, so I took matters into my own hands."
Reserve guard M.J. Lezanic helped the Pioneers (5-1 overall, 4-0 Central League) clinch the big road win by draining three of four foul shots in the last 22 seconds. Overall, the visitors went 16 for 22 from the line.
"Shooting free throws is one of our strengths," Conestoga coach Mike Troy said. "And we were able to show that throughout the game."
Diehl shot 4 for 9 from the field (3 for 4 from three-point range) and 6 for 7 from the line. He added two blocks and a steal.
"People are starting to see how good of a basketball player he really is," Troy said. "He stepped up and made two big shots down the stretch, one with a guy right in his face."
Before fouling out with 2:15 to play, Dan Vila, a 6-6 senior forward, contributed eight points, seven boards (three on offense), and three rejections for the Pioneers.
Point guard Daryl Caldwell chipped in seven points and five assists; 6-4 forward Martin Dorsey posted six points and five caroms. Guard James VanDeventer buried a pair of first-quarter threes, including a buzzer-beating heave from halfcourt.
Senior swingman and Penn recruit Jule Brown paced Lower Merion, which made only 8 of 17 free throws, with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.
The Aces (3-2, 3-1) nearly forced overtime in the final seconds, but Sherman's three-point try, from the right wing and while falling away, was off the mark.
Conestoga 13 12 13 13 - 51
Lower Merion 9 11 13 14 - 47
C: Daryl Caldwell 7, James VanDeventer 6, Dan Vila 8, Martin Dorsey 6, Andrew Diehl 17, M.J. Lezanic 5, Jack Lambert 2.
LM: Corey Sherman 9, K.J. Helton 9, Eli Needle 2, Asher Barry 9, Jule Brown 14, Dion Harris 4.