By Danny Kane
If adversity is the best test of a team’s character, the Aces earned an important measure of respect on Thursday night. By all accounts the Aces appeared dead in the water after three near-flawless quarters of basketball by Upper Darby. The Royals started the game on a 15-1 run, and stretched the lead to 30 points in the third -- fueled by torrid shooting and the Aces’ offensive ineptitude. At one point, Lower Merion was 2-24 from the field.
The game was certainly not headed in a direction the Aces had anticipated, especially after a heartbreaking buzzer-beater defeat to Upper Darby just two weeks ago. And while some teams might have thrown in the towel and wallowed in their misfortune, the Aces ignored the scoreboard and admirably continued to fight. And then they fought some more.And then a funny thing happened – they were back in the game.
LM used a frenetic zone press at the start of the 4th quarter and exploded on a 24-5 run over the next four minutes, narrowing the Royals’ lead to ten points. Suddenly, the Aces were in striking distance with nearly half a quarter to play. The Dawg Pound was roaring, the Royals were reeling. The impossible seemed possible.
With 3:14 left on the clock, a Royals player went up for a missed dunk and held onto the rim while attempting to catch the ball and put it through the hoop. The play could have resulted in a technical foul, which would have given the Aces two free throws and the ball. Instead, the Royals rebounded the miss and scored. It would be tough to call the play a turning point, especially since the Aces were digging out of a big hole, but a different turn of events might have led to a more interesting conclusion. Ultimately, the Aces’ efforts were too little, too late and the Royals held on to go to 12-0 on the season (8-0 in the Central League).
In spite of the loss, several Aces players had strong performances. Darius Hall scored a career high 13 points, including three 3 pointers. Mike Robbins had an electrifying fourth-quarter dunk that helped breathe life back into the Aces, and Raheem Hall was a defensive stalwart once again.
They may not have been proud of the final result, but the young Aces’ ability to battle through adversity will no doubt serve them well in the weeks and months ahead.