Aces fans were hungry for the return of hoops season, but probably didn't need two extra helpings on Saturday. LM battled, but fell 78-75 in double-overtime to state-ranked Roman Catholic at Coatesville HS.
Junior BJ Johnson led the Aces with a career-high 24 points, including three three-pointers. Sophomore Jaquan Johnson added 14 points off the bench and senior Darryl Reynolds finished with 12 points and 7 blocks. Senior guard Mike Robbins (9 points) led the Aces with seven assists. Junior guard Raheem Hall (7 points) had a game-high seven steals. Yohanny Dalembert '13 (6 points) and Justin McFadden '14 (3 points) rounded out the Aces' scoring.
The Cahilites' USA top-25 guard Shep Garner played as advertised, tallying 37 points to lead all scorers.
The story of the game was the Aces' shaky performance on the charity stripe and a stretch of costly first-half turnovers. LM connected on just 11 of 24 shots from the line, while the Cahilities shot 17-25. Up 17-7 late in the first, LM gave their lead away by turning the ball over on six consecutive possessions. LM had 22 turnovers in the contest, with 15 coming in the first half. LM trailed by five at halftime and wouldn't regain the lead until the 4:34 mark of the fourth quarter on a deep trey by BJ Johnson.
Holding a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter thanks to another clutch three from Johnson, the Aces missed the front end of three consecutive one-and-ones. The last missed attempt, with less than 11 seconds to play in regulation led to a scramble for the ball, which Roman secured and took the other way for a buzzer beating, game tying three-pointer from the deep left corner.
In the first overtime, LM again had an opportunity to break the game open at the foul line, but could not convert. With less than 20 seconds to play, Reynolds gave the Aces a two-point lead with a thunderous jam off a feed from Robbins. Roman's Garner answered with a tough lay-up to set set up the final sequence. Jaquan Johnson, who had helped ignite the Aces' key fourth-quarter run, juked his man at the top of the key and almost got a difficult floater to fall at the buzzer.
The Aces hung tough in the second overtime, but never regained the lead. A desperation heave by Robbins at the buzzer that would have tied the game hit the front iron, and Roman escaped with the win.
While any loss is tough to swallow, there were enough positive moments on Saturday to give the Aces and their fans a taste of what could be when this young team learns to click on all cylinders. With many players seeing their first meaningful varsity minutes, the team showed it could compete and have success against an elite state-level power. Over the next few months, it will be interesting to watch how the pieces come together.
Next up for the Aces is a visit to Strath Haven on Tuesday night (7:30 PM) for a match-up with the always-feisty Panthers. Strath Haven is coming off a 52-51 season-opening loss to Del-Val giant Glen Mills. The Panthers went 14-9 last season and qualified for the District Playoffs.