For much of the past two months, the Aces have heard who they are not. No guys named BJ, Raheem, or Yohanny, not enough experience, not enough size, no big wins, etc., etc. After two early-season league losses, they had even been dismissed as potential contenders in the Central League.
On Tuesday night, in front of a loud, toga-wearing Dawg Pound, the Aces issued a reminder of who they are another Lower Merion team making an impressive late season push.
With their 60-57 victory over Conestoga, the Aces moved into a tie with the Pioneers atop the Central League standings and are one win away from clinching a berth in the league playoffs a feat that seemed improbable in December after losses to Haverford and Penncrest. LM has won nine of its last ten and now stands at 10-2 in league play.
The Aces led for all but six minutes on Tuesday night, but the contest was tight throughout. LM opened the game on a 10-4 run, paced by seven early points from Corey Sherman 15. The Pioneers battled back to draw within three at the end of the first quarter. LM extended the margin to seven points early in the second after an and-one layup from Justin McFadden 14, but again Conestoga closed the gap and even took a brief one-point lead before a JaQuan Johnson 14 layup put the Aces up 31-30 just before halftime.
The Pioneers continued their strong play at the start of the third quarter, taking their biggest lead of the game at 39-33 three minutes into the frame. But LM responded with a 12-4 run to close the quarter, punctuated by another acrobatic Johnson layup.
The play of the game and perhaps of the season so far -- came mid-way through the fourth quarter with the Aces clinging to a one-point lead. McFadden drove baseline and rose in traffic for an emphatic, two-handed slam that ignited the Dawg Pound and forced a Pioneers time-out. The play didnt break the game open, but it certainly placed momentum on the side of the Maroon & White. Over the next four minutes, the Aces controlled play, extending their lead to as many as eight points en route to victory.
For an Aces team that was written off earlier this season, there was no mistaking the message provided by McFadden and his teammates on Tuesday. As the regular season comes down the home stretch, its all about a strong finish.
McFadden led LM with 14 points. Sherman (13 points), Johnson (12 points) and Nick Jones 15 (10 points) also reached double figures. The Aces return to action on Thursday night as they host Marple Newtown at 7 PM.