It had all the feel of a heavyweight prize fight. Two legendary programs met for a friendly game of five-on-five to open the 2012-2013 season, as the Aces hosted the Neumann Goretti Saints, 11th-ranked nationally last night at Bryant Gymnasium. In a taut, hard fought battle, the Aces fell, 70-64 before a sold out crowd, including a Dawg Pound that was typically vocal and involved. The much-anticipated matchup of the defending PIAA AAA State Champion Saints and the AAAA Finalist Aces did not disappoint, as the see-saw battle was not decided until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The first half saw neither team hold a lead of greater than 3 points, as the Aces leaned on BJ Johnson ’13 to match the Saints’ dynamic duo of forward John Davis and guard Ja’Quan Newton. Johnson finished the first half with 13 points, on his way to a game high 28 points, one off his career high. With Yohanny Dalembert ’13 (8 points) defending the rim, halftime arrived with the Aces trailing by just 31-30, and the battle was on.
Neumann opened the second half and jumped to a 6-point lead, only to have the typically scrappy Aces continue to close the gap. A three-point basket by JaQuan Johnson ’14 (9 points) cut the Saints lead to one, but Neumann finished the quarter ahead 49-43. The epic 4th quarter was played to a 21-21 stand-off, as BJ Johnson poured in 11 points in the final stanza to try and slay the nationally ranked Saints, but the Aces were unable to retake the lead.
The Aces got yeoman efforts from Raheem Hall ’13 (8 points, all on spectacular second chance opportunities), Justin McFadden ’14 (4 points from the foul line), Corey Sherman ’15 (4 points), and Baird Howland ’13 (3 points). Jule Brown ’15 also saw floor time.
Neumann’s Davis and Newtown finished with a combined 41 points.
The Aces will open defense of their Central League title on Tuesday night as the Fords of Haverford High pay a visit to Bryant Gymnasium. Game time is 7pm.