The Aces turned away a scrappy Martin Luther King squad 63-50 on Wednesday night at Plymouth Whitemarsh to advance to the PIAA state quarterfinals. LM used a 13-4 second quarter run to seize control of the game and maintained a double-digit cushion for most of the second half. As expected, it was a tough, physical contest between two battle-tested teams. Ultimately, the Aces' size, depth and stifling defense wore down the Cougars. LM (27-3) held MLK (24-5) to its lowest point production of the season despite a late Cougars flurry after the game had been decided.
Yohanny Dalembert '13 finished with 12 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocks and provided a dominant presence in the paint against the smaller Cougars. BJ Johnson '13 finished with a game-high 18 points, drilled a three and was stellar at the the foul line. In a highly-anticipated match-up, the Aces' backcourt duo of JaQuan Johnson '14 and Raheem Hall '13 outshined MLK's talented guard tandem of Fa'Teem Glenn and Raquan Brown-Johnson. Johnson scored 14 points and limited the speedy Glenn -- who fouled out at the start of the fourth -- to just eight. Hall added 14 points and six steals and blanketed the 6'5 Brown-Johnson all night; King's leading scorer was held to just nine points.
Hall highlighted the Aces' second quarter-surge when he picked his man in the backcourt and raced to the rim for an emphatic slam to give the Aces a 23-14 lead. A Dalembert jump-hook and Johnson free throws gave LM a 27-16 lead before two late MLK foul shots cut the halftime margin to nine. The Aces extended their lead to as many as 15 in the third and led 43-30 at the end of the frame. King briefly crawled within eight at the start of the fourth, before LM pulled away for good, leading by as many as 17 late in the game. A Johnson to Dalembert alley-oop served as a perfect night-capper, sending the Aces faithful home with the equivalent of a playoff party favor.
Up next for the Aces is an Elite Eight showdown on Saturday with District 3 champion Harrisburg, who advanced with a 79-62 win over Upper Darby. Time and location will be announced on Thursday. Last year, the Aces defeated Easton in the state quarterfinals 66-54.