Perhaps it was the sting of the buzzer beater loss to the Royals at home a year ago. Perhaps it was the memory of watching their 2011 league title hopes go up in flames during a blow-out defeat at Upper Darby last February. Perhaps they needed to prove that last year's District playoff win over UD was more than an apparition.
Whatever ghosts haunted the Aces on Saturday afternoon, they sure performed one heck of an exorcism.
With the game knotted at 26-26 mid-way through the second quarter, LM exploded on a 17-0 run and outscored the Upper Darby 46-14 over the remaining two-plus quarters en route to a 72-40 victory. It wasn't always pretty, but it was downright ferocious. The Aces' runs came in relentless waves, keyed by frenetic half-court defensive pressure and a punishing transition game. Deflections, loose balls, blocked shots -- even when the Aces weren't clicking, they refused to yield an inch in front a raucous home crowd that was big, loud and equally unforgiving.
Eight Aces entered the scoring column in a balanced team effort. BJ Johnson '13 led the way with 16 points, including 4-5 from the foul line. JaQuan Johnson, who was right in the middle of the Aces' 2nd quarter surge, finished with 12 points and 5 steals. Darryl Reynolds '12 (10 points, 3 blocks) teamed up with Yohanny Dalembert '13 (7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks) to control the interior. The 6'7 Dalembert had one of the highlights of the game, when he snared a defensive rebound and dribbled the length of the floor for a pretty and-one layup. Raheem Hall '13 (9 points, 5 assists), Mike Robbins '12 (8 points), Bryce Williamson '12 (7 points) and Bryan Shapiro '13 (3 points) rounded out the scoring.
Shapiro punctuated the Aces' 17-0 2nd quarter run with a deep three as the half was coming to a close.
Although he didn't score, Justin McFadden '14 was his usual self, diving on the floor and making the little plays that don't show up in the box score. Rick Miller '12, Baird Howland '13, Doug Cotler, '13, Emery Shiffraw '13, Corey Sherman '15 and Jule Brown '15 also saw action for LM.
Coming into Saturday's contest, both LM and UD sat atop the Central League standings with unblemished 6-0 records. The Royals were riding an impressive 22-game regular season win streak in league play dating back to February of 2010. By the end of the afternoon, the streak was over -- convincingly -- and the Aces had sole possession of first place.
Last year's demons may now be gone, but these Aces are playing possessed.
Next up for LM is a match-up with crosstown rival Harriton on Tuesday at 7:30 PM at home.