The Aces came up just short on Wednesday night, losing 68-65 to Emmaus in the final of the Lower Merion Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Bryant Gymnasium. The game was certainly worth the $5 price of admission, as two quality teams battled toe-to-toe for 32 minutes in an entertaining game of contrasting styles. Emmaus, a talented, senior-laden bunch, showed why they are the class of District 11 and a serious state contender. The Hornets kept the Aces off balance with a crisp, controlled passing game and an impressive transition attack. LM countered with relentless dribble penetration and effective work off the offensive glass. Ultimately, Emmaus made more clutch plays down the stretch, overcoming a late six point deficit to pull out the victory.
Greg Bobal led the Hornets with 24 points, knocking down four threes and displaying a complete floor game en route to tournament MVP honors. For the Aces, BJ Johnson '13 scored 23 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Raheem Hall '13 added 16 points. Mike Robbins '12 (12 points), Darryl Reynolds '12 (7 points) and Jaquan Johnson '14 (7 points) rounded out the scoring for LM.
The game was tied 21-21 after the first quarter and was knotted at 37-37 in a high-scoring first half. Both teams struggled to score in the third frame, with LM taking a slim 48-46 lead into the fourth quarter. Until that point, no team had led by more than four points in a game that saw 19 lead changes. The Aces led by as many as six in the fourth quarter after Jaquan Johnson found BJ Johnson for consecutive threes. But Emmaus stormed back to take a 62-60 lead at the 1:49 mark and extended the lead to four points (66-62) with less than 20 seconds to play. Johnson was fouled on a three point attempt and knocked down all three free throws to draw the Aces within one, but Emmaus hit big free throws down the stretch to seal the final margin.
The outcome was a tough one to swallow for the Aces, who were hosting their first holiday tournament in more than a decade, but it was not for lack of effort. Emmaus played very well and deserved the victory. If LM hopes to make any noise in this year's post-season, the Hornets are exactly the kind of team they'll need to play -- and beat -- down the road.
LM continues its difficult non-league campaign on Friday night, with a match-up against the area's #3 ranked team, St. Joseph's Prep -- another squad with a boatload of talent and state title aspirations. Tip-off is 5:00 PM at Widener University.