The Aces got their holiday break off to a festive start with an impressive 44-42 win at Conestoga Friday night. Juniors Carl Johnson (16 points, four assists) and Steve Meehan (13 points, 3-5 3 PT) led the Aces in scoring. Senior Eric Barefield (8 points, five steals), sophomore Eric Stahler (7 points, 3 assists), junior Kevin Escott (11 rebounds) and senior Adam Ellison (5 rebounds, 2 assists) played important roles in an all-around team effort.
Johnson and Barefield keyed an excellent first-quarter for the Aces, helping the squad jump to an early 11-4 lead thanks to a series of jumpers and strong drives to the basket. Conestoga battled back to take a 19-18 lead with just seconds remaining in the first half. With the clock expiring, Johnson found Meehan for a corner three to give the Aces a 20-18 lead heading into the third frame. It would be the first bucket in a career-high effort for the sharp-shooting junior.
In the third, the Aces continued to pressure the ball defensively and extended their lead to twelve on a driving layup by Johnson. Conestoga made a late run to cut the lead to seven, but Meehan answered again in the clutch, knocking down a pull-up jumper at the buzzer to push the margin to 33-24.
The Aces held on in the fourth despite a furious late run by the Pioneers. Down ten with less than two minutes to play, Conestoga extended its pressure and forced three consecutive Aces turnovers that led to transition baskets. The Aces failed to score in their halfcourt offense and Conestoga narrowed the margin to two on an offensive rebound and put-back by 6'5 swingman Mike Henrici. After trading possessions, Conestoga had the ball and a chance to tie with .7 on the clock. The ball was inbounded to the Pioneers' top scorer Kevin O'Hara (15 points), but his shot was heavily contested by Barefield and hit the side of the backboard. The Aces breathed a sigh of relief and exited with an important league victory.
The win was one of the team's better defensive performances of the season. Stahler contributed a solid individual effort against Henrici (Conestoga's season scoring leader) - Barefield forced four turnovers and limited Pioneers point guard Mike D'Angelo to four points.
With the win, Lower Merion improves to 5-3 with an exciting week ahead. On Wednesday (12/27), the Aces return to Widener University for a re-match against Chester (8 PM). On Saturday, the Aces play 2006 AAA PA runner-up Communications Tech at Gwynedd Mercy (1 PM).