The Aces achieved their most important victory of the season on Saturday night, and it had nothing to do with the result on the scoreboard.
Four years ago, Aces assistant coach Kevin Grugan’s daughter, Hope, was diagnosed with Angelman’s Syndrome, a neuro-genetic disorder that occurs in one of every 15,000 live births. Characteristics of AS include developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures and walking and balance disorders. It is often misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy or autism. Despite these characteristics, individuals with Angelman Syndrome have a happy demeanor, laugh frequently and are often smiling.
On Saturday, the Aces hosted the 1st Annual Hope Classic benefiting the Angelman’s Syndrome Foundation to honor Hope’s remarkable progress and to raise critical funds and awareness for ASF.
The Aces delivered on the court, beating Haddonfield 64-53 – and they gave an amazing little girl a very big reason to smile.
The Grugan family and their friends, as well as a number of families impacted by Angelman’s from across the region, were in attendance. Prior to the game, father and daughter made their way to center court to a standing ovation from fans of both teams, many of whom were wearing pink “LM has Hope” t-shirts. Kevin introduced a beaming Hope and thanked all in attendance for helping to make a difference by supporting ASF. ASF, the largest non-governmental funder of AS specific research, has brought forth new discoveries that bring hope for therapies and ultimately a cure for AS.
Undoubtedly inspired by Hope, the Aces took the floor and played perhaps their most complete game of the season against one of South Jersey’s top-ranked teams. LM took an early 5-0 lead and held a 17-13 advantage after the first quarter. The Aces’ defense held the high-flying Bulldogs to just six second quarter points and extended the margin to double-digits late in the period at 28-17 after a threes by Corey Sherman ’15, Jule Brown ’15 and a steal and layup by Steve Pendleton ’15.
In the third, LM extended the lead to as many as 20 beyond three-pointers from Sherman ’15 and KJ Helton ’16 and a baseline reverse from Asher Barry ‘15 off a pretty feed from Brown before a Bulldogs run closed the gap at 41-27 at the end of the period.
Haddonfield, who entered the game at 6-1 and return the nucleus of a team that went 28-1 a year ago, would not go quietly. The Bulldogs exploded for 26 points in the final period fueled by star guard Nick DePersia, who drained three treys in the frame. With just over three minutes to play, the Aces lead was trimmed to seven at 50-43. But Brown responded with a driving layup and took a charge on the other end to give the Aces possession. Helton then drove the lane for an acrobatic layup with two Bulldogs players draped across his body and converted the free throw for a three-point play, giving LM breathing room at 55-43. The teams traded buckets down the stretch and the Aces closed out the victory.
Brown led a balanced Aces attack with 16 points. Pendleton (14 points), Barry (13 points), Sherman (11 points), Helton (8 points) and Needle (2 points) rounded out the scoring.
With the clock winding down, the Dawg Pound chanted “We got Hope! We got Hope!” It was a fitting conclusion to a great night of basketball for an important cause.
With the win, the Aces improve to 8-4 on the season. Up next is a match-up with Harriton at home on Tuesday. Tip-off is 7 PM.