By Sam Oshtry
Darryl Taylor 19 knocked down two free throws with 5.8 seconds on the clock to lift the Aces to a thrilling 58-56 victory at Conestoga.
Both teams came out firing in a back and forth first half, with Noah Fennell 17 drilling two early treys to help the Aces keep pace with the Pioneers. Conestoga led 19-16 after the first quarter, but LM rallied to take the lead in the second frame and entered halftime with a 30-29 advantage. The teams traded leads nine times through the first 16 minutes of play.
LM took an early second half lead, but the Pioneers capitalized on Aces foul trouble and used a 9-3 run at the end of the third quarter to go up 48-42 and pushed the advantage to eight points early in the fourth.
But the Aces never gave in. Down seven with less than four minutes to play, the Aces clawed back with aggressive full-court pressure and solid foul shooting. A three-point play by Steve Payne, two free throws and a layup by Jack Forrest 19 brought the Aces to within one at 53-52. Taylor and Payne forced a steal in the backcourt and Fennell hit a pull-up jumper on the ensuing possession to give the Aces their first lead since the third quarter. Conestoga answered with a three-ball to go up 56-54, but the Aces responded immediately on another Forrest drive. Conestoga kept possession for the next minute, but could not convert two free throws, setting up LMs final sequence.
The Aces missed the mark on a jumper with less than eight seconds to play, but Taylor came up with the offensive rebound and was fouled. With the Conestoga crowd screaming wildly, the sophomore calmly stepped to the line and sank both bonus free throws to give the Aces the lead.
The Pioneers drove the length of the floor and appeared to have an open layup just before the buzzer, but Taylor came out of nowhere to reject the shot and LM was able to hold on for victory.
Fennell and Terrell Jones 17 led the way for the Aces with 17 points apiece. Forrest and Payne added eight points, while Taylor (5 points) and Theo Henry 19 (3 points) rounded out the scoring.
It was an exciting night in a packed house and LM showed great resilience in overcoming a formidable foe.
The Aces have another tough road matchup on Tuesday against a talented Penncrest squad that has been near the top of the league standings all season.