During his 18-year coaching tenure (1927-45), "Andy" led the Aces to four state titles, 12 District I titles, seven state finals appearances and set a school record for victories (346) that still stands today. His state playoff record of 59-8 (.880 winning percentage) is the best in PIAA history. Prior to Anderson's career at Lower Merion, teams from Western PA dominated high school basketball in the state; Lower Merion became PA's first Eastern power and helped fuel interest in the sport in the Philadelphia area. Anderson's on-court innovations led to several rules changes, including the elimination of a jump ball after each score, the institution of a ten-second backcourt violation and a three-second painted area violation. Following his tenure at Lower Merion, Anderson returned to coach at his alma mater, Lafayette College, where he is a member of the school's Hall of Fame.
In April of 1958, Anderson's former Lower Merion players and friends hosted a reunion and testimonial dinner to celebrate the career of their legendary coach. A program from the event describes Coach Anderson and his impact on Lower Merion Basketball:
He was a severe drill master, demanding hour on hour of drills which included ball-handling, passing, dribbling, and shooting practice before endless floor scrimmages were started. Two handed set-shots and close lay-ups were in order. Every precaution was exercised to insure possession of the ball. The slogan began-"the other team can't score without the ball."
Andy's untiring efforts plus his associations and contacts were invaluable for he knew many of the professional coaches and players in the Philadelphia area. Whenever possible he attended their practices, scrimmages and games, making memoranda on their successful plays. His theory being-"If it works for the pros, it's good enough for us."
A stickler for detail where the welfare of his players was involved, "Andy" left nothing to chance. He kept close check on each boy's scholastic standing. He visited their families to make certain of their study routine and diets-even asserted himself regarding their dates.
"Andy" left Lower Merion at the close of the 1945 season to return to his alma mater, Lafayette College as Director of Athletics. For us Old Time Merionites we will stay with our eighteen great teams and "Andy," the man who won the admiration, respect and esteem of his players, the citizens of the community and all who came to know him…We agree with Mr. Edward Snow, Principal of Ardmore Junior High School, who so adequately summarized in a recent letter…"These years were the greatest in Lower Merion history…"
All agree we shall not see such an outstanding man and coach again.1933 State Championship Team
Lower Merion's first state title team set the stage for a run of unparalleled success. The team lacked a marquee player, but was the best defensive squad in the Anderson era, holding opponents to 16 points per game. The Aces defeated Altoona 21-16 in the state final in front of 10,000 fans at the Palestra. Captain Roger Hanger, playing with a badly sprained ankle, teamed with Mike Zengel (16 points) to key the victory. So great was the Aces' following during their title run, that the PIAA changed a long standing rule that rotated the state title games between Eastern and Western Pennsylvania. To accommodate capacity crowds, the PIAA moved all championship games to large arenas-the Palestra and Philadelphia's Convention Hall hosted the PIAA championship for the next 20 years.Charles "Dutch" Sivertsen '41
Sivertsen was a rare three-year star and captain of the 1941 state championship team. He earned first team All-State honors in his senior season and gained legendary status by notching 20 points-a career best-in the 1941 title game against Duquesne. As a sophomore in 1939, Sivertsen scored a team high 15 points in the Eastern Final to send the Aces to their first state title game since 1933. His clutch play and leadership set the tone for his younger teammates, who won consecutive titles in '42 and '43. Sivertsen's signature move was the hook shot, which he shot with equal ability with his left and right hands.Harry Middleton '42
Middleton was a key member of two state championship teams (1941, 1942) and a first team All-State selection and team captain in his senior season. A gifted ball-handler and shooter, Middleton was best known for his defensive prowess. He regularly drew the task of guarding the opponent's best player. In the 1941 title game, he limited PA Player of the Year Chink Crossin to just three second-half points, helping to key the Aces' 32-24 victory. Middleton's championship roots and love of a victory celebration remain strong-during the past two state title years (1996 and 2006), he returned to his alma mater to serve as honorary parade marshall. Middleton played college basketball at Cornell University.Greer Heindel '43
Heindel remains the only player in Pennsylvania history to start on three consecutive state championship teams. During his career, The Aces went 69-3, the best three-year mark in team history. In the 1943 title game against Sharon, he led the Aces with nine points in a 29-28 thriller, to help secure the program's first and only undefeated season (22-0). The Philadelphia Inquirer cited Heindel's role in "the game's most excellently executed play." While standing at the high post, his back to the basket, Heindel passed the ball between his legs to teammate Hank Belber, who received the pass on the baseline and converted a reverse lay-up. A first team All-State selection and team captain in his senior season, Heindel graduated as the school's all-time leading scorer. Known for his unselfish and determined play, he also was one of the program's top career rebounders and assist-men. A gifted all-around athlete, Heindel went on to play both basketball and football at the University of Pennsylvania.Mitch McDaniel '63
McDaniel finished his career as the Aces' all-time leading scorer with 1,017 points and became the first Aces player to reach the 1,000 point plateau. His remarkable record, achieved before the advent of the three-point shot, would stand for nearly 30 years. During his senior season, McDaniel averaged nearly 25 points per game, tallying a school record 44 points against Norristown. A senior captain and two-time all-league selection, McDaniel guided the '63 Aces to their best record (16-5) since 1947. He went on to star at Kutztown University.William "Billy" Holland '69
Holland helped lead the Aces to their first Central League title during a Cinderella 1967-68 campaign. A three-year star and senior captain noted for his deft jump shot and all-around floor game (he played guard, forward and center during his high school career), Holland received an invited to play in the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic, the equivalent of today's National McDonald's All-American game. He earned first team All-League and All-Main Line honors in his junior and senior seasons. Holland's legacy continued beyond the walls of Lower Merion as he led the development of the Ardmore Avenue Community Center, a center of community life for Ardmore youth. Holland went on to star at Lincoln University, where he was named All-NAIA.Wendell Holland '79
Holland helped fuel the resurgence of the program as a local power during a stellar three-year career. The Aces went a combined 41-7 in league play during Holland's tenure-best since the mid '40's and a three-year mark that wouldn't be surpassed until the late '90's. Holland's teams also strung together the first three consecutive winning seasons in 15 years, including a first-ever Central League title (1967-68). A senior captain, leading scorer and area All-Star, Holland went on to star at Fordham, where he was recruited by the legendary Digger Phelps. He is a distinguished alumnus of LMHS and Rutgers Law School and a Retired Judge.Jim Brogan, Sam Brown, Kevin Lonesome - Class of 1976
The All-League trio of Brogan, Brown and Lonesome propelled the Aces to their first District championship and first 20-win season in more than 30 years. The '76 team won 22 consecutive games, including a 43-38 thriller against Plymouth-Whitemarsh at the Palestra in the District Final. Brogan, a sharp-shooting guard, averaged 15 points per game to pace the Aces' attack; Brown (14 ppg), a hard-nosed forward, led the team in rebounding and Lonesome (14 ppg), a talented floor general, led the team in assists. All three players earned first-team all-league honors in their senior campaign and all-league recognition in their junior seasons. The three also helped key a runner-up District finish in 1975 and back-to-back Central League titles ('75, '76).
Lonesome went on to become an All-American at Brandywine Junior College and then was a two-year start at Abliene Chistian University where he still holds the record for career free throw percentage. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from ACU in 1981. As a high school basketball coach in Texas, he helped launch the career of Utah Jazz star Derron Williams.
Brogan played college basketball at West Virginia Wesleyan and became Lower Merion's first NBA player when he joined the San Diego Clippers in 1981, where he played under legendary coach Paul Silas. Following his NBA career, Brogan became a highly sought-after motivational speaker and authority on peak performance for teens, elite athletes, and CEO's. He is widely credited for his work with Cy Young winner Cole Hamels.
Brown continued his athletic career at Cornell University, where he starred for the Big Red's football program. He came to Lower Merion as part of A Better Chance, a program that continues to enable talented urban youth to attend top high schools around the country. Brown is the founder of Xiatel Communications.Kobe Bryant '96
During his senior season in 1996, Kobe Bryant piloted the Aces to a program-best record of 31-3, including 27 straight wins, a Central League title, District I title, and state title. Averaging 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4 steals and 3.9 blocks per game, Bryant was named Gatorade, USA Today, and Parade Magazine National High School Player of the Year as well as a unanimous first team All-American. During his four-year varsity career, he became the all-time scoring leader in the history of Southeastern Pennsylvania, tallying 2,883 points. After being named a McDonald's High School All-American, Bryant declared himself eligible for the 1996 NBA draft and was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick before having his draft rights traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. A five time NBA champion and 13-time NBA All-Star, Bryant earned his first league MVP in 2008 and won a Gold Medal with the 2008 Olympic team. He is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the NBA.Sarah Lowe '02
Lowe is Lower Merion's all-time leading girls scorer with 1,676 points (2nd overall). A four-time First Team All-Central League honoree, she led the Aces girls to their first-ever league title in 2002. In her senior season, Lowe was named a McDonald's All American Finalist, Street & Smith Honorable Mention All-American and USA Today Player to Watch. She went on to star at the University of Florida where she finished college career among top ten UF players all-time in assists, steals, minutes played, free throw percentage and three pointers. Among her numerous collegiate honors, Lowe was named 2006 Woody Hayes National Scholar Athlete of the Year (Division 1), Arthur Ashe Female Sports Scholar of the Year, NCAA Woman of the Year finalist and SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She is a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2006 at the University of Florida; the youngest member of the Knight Foundation of Intercollegiate Athletics; a Fulbright Scholar and 2-time Rhodes Scholarship Finalist. Lowe is the co-founder of Kujali International.Mike Venafra '01
Venafra tallied 1146 points in two sparking seasons for the Aces. He led the program to back-to-back league championships and state playoff appearances in 2000 and 2001 and was noted for his extraordinary work ethic and team-first play. His two year varsity record of 46-15 (34-2 league) is one of the best in program history. Venafra was named Central League MVP in 2001. He went on to a stellar college career at DeSales University where he scored 1354 career points and was a regional D III All-American.Gerald Mills '74
Mills was the only returning player for the Aces during the 1973-74 season, and the team was expected to struggle. Instead, they soared. Mills was senior captain and MVP, a first team All League selection leading scorer and rebounder. The Aces compiled a 27-7 league record during his two varsity campaigns. Coach Bill Stephens said, "Mills is a tremendous leader and is another coach on the floor." Mills went on to a Hall of Fame career at Cheyney University, where he was one of five freshmen who played all four years. He was co-captain and member of the famed 1978 Division II National Championship team coached by John Chaney.Gregg Long '75
Long led the '75 Aces to the Central League Title and was voted League MVP for his deadly shooting, strong rebounding and agile moves to the hoop. "Likes to maneuver in heavy traffic…. has some of the best moves under the basket," wrote the Main Line Times. As one of only two returning varsity players and sole senior starter, Long provided critical leadership to a young team in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. His play was the core around which the younger Aces built their team as they clinched the second half crown and beat Springfield for the Central League Title. His stellar league play moved into a higher gear at the Palestra as he led the Aces to their first state playoff win in 30 years. In a half dozen PIAA playoff games, Long scored 20 or more points as the Aces knocked off Chichester and then vanquished Norristown after being down 19-7 in the first quarter. In the District One Title game four days later, Long's 27 against Plymouth-Whitemarsh netted the Aces a berth in the state tournament where they made it to the state Elite Eight. His overall season average of 18 points and 12 rebounds per game led the league in both categories and made Long a unanimous All-Central League First Team selection.
Long went on to play college basketball at Norfolk State University.Gregg Downer - Coach
The school's all time wins leader, Downer surpassed legendary coach Bill Anderson's total of 346 games in 2008. He has led the Aces to two PA State Championships, three State Finals, two District 1 championships, nine Central League titles, nine state playoff appearances, six District 1 Final Four appearances, and ten 20-win seasons during his tenure (1990-present). In 2006, he was named Pennsylvania's Coach of the Year by the Associated Press. A seven-time Central League Coach of the Year, and the current District 1 all-time wins leader, more than 20 of Downer's players have gone on to play basketball at the Division I, II, III and professional levels, including NBA MVP Kobe Bryant.Al Bonniwell '30
Bonniwell was the leading scorer and star for Lower Merion's first state finalist and first district title team in 1930. He was named NCAA First Team All-American and First Team All-Ivy league at Dartmouth College. Boniwell became Lower Merion's first professional basketball player when he was drafted by the NBL's Akron Firetone Non-Skids in 1937. He played with four brothers for a family team that won 17 consecutive games against top competition in the 1920's and were affectionately known in Philadelphia Newspapers as the Bonniwell Boys. A career Army officer who retired a full Colonel in 1967, Bonniwell earned numerous decorations and awards for his service to the country.Ira Rich '40
Rich was named First Team All-State in 1940 for a Lower Merion team that reached the Eastern Finals. He was 2nd Team All-State in 1939 when he helped lead the team to the State finals. He was the first African-American named PIAA First Team All-State. A legendary rebounder, Rich led the Maroon & White in scoring during two playoff campaigns.Michael Holland '67
An Aces captain and vaunted floor general, Holland was a two-time All-Suburban League selection. He went on to star at West Chester, and was inducted in the school's basketball Hall of Fame in 1991. Holland was a longtime teacher in the Council Rock School District and served as Head Basketball Coach from 1974-81; among his players was Villanova's Jay Wright. Holland went on to become Head Coach of Montgomery Community College and Beaver College and co-founded the Philadelphia National Pro-Am League. At Beaver, he graduated all but two players in ten seasons. During his coaching career, he was named Bucks County Courier Times Coach of the Year, Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, and Small College Basketball Association Coach of the Year. Holland also served as President of the Suburban One Athletic League and served on the Board of Directors at the Ardmore Avenue Community Center, where he co-founded the Ardmore Avenue Summer Basketball League.
In 2001 Holland became the 1st Principal at Council Rock High School South where he had major involvement in the development and opening of the new high school.