In front of a raucous, standing room only Main Gym crowd, the Aces earned a third consecutive trip to the state playoffs with a 56-50 victory against Cheltenham. The Aces handled their business in classic, workman-like fashion - controlling tempo, playing airtight defense and making clutch shots to secure the win. Whatever the Aces' performance lacked in flash was more than made up for with hustle, determination and gritty resolve. After leading for most of the game and by as many as 11 in the third, the Maroon & White staved off a late Cheltenham rally that saw the Panthers take their first and only lead of the 2nd half midway through the 4th quarter.After Cheltenham hit a three to go up 43-42 at the 4:17 mark, junior Carl Johnson countered with a three of his own to put the Aces back up by two. The Maroon & White held the lead and extended it to nine on free-throws. A trey by the Panthers with two seconds on the clock produced the final margin.
Greg Robbins led the Aces with 20 points. Johnson (12), Eric Barefield (11 points, 7 assists), Steve Meehan (5 points), Eric Stahler (5 points) and Adam Ellison (3 points) rounded out the scoring. Robbins attacked the basket with an array of moves, doing most of his damage in the paint and by drawing fouls. The Aces went to the line 22 times, connecting on 16 free throws. The Panthers shot 9-11 from the charity stripe.
The Aces turned the ball over just four times on the night, with Barefield deserving special mention. The senior point guard had a season-low zero turnovers for the game and drew two key charges. Another senior, Ellison, capped his final game in the Main Gym by providing a steady interior presence, drawing a charge and getting the Aces' scoring started with a nifty spin move for an and-one layup.
Cheltenham's lineup featured the twin towers of 6'7 Austin Johnson and 6'8 Andrew Young, both Division 1 recruits. Both big men had strong games, with Young netting 21 points and Johnson 18 in the loss. However, no other Cheltenham player reached double figures in scoring.
Next up is a much-anticipated re-match with Central League champ Upper Darby. The Aces fell in their first two meetings of the season with the Royals. A chance for payback comes Friday night at 7 PM in the district quarterfinals at West Chester East High School. A limited number of tickets will be on sale in the LMHS athletic office on Thursday and Friday.
Click here to view coverage of the Aces' win v. Cheltenham by Main Line Times reporter, Bruce Adams.