By Sam Oshtry '19
The Aces pulled out another close victory Tuesday night, edging Penncrest 58-56.
LM held a narrow lead for most of the contest, but it took solid foul shooting and clutch play down the stretch to keep the Lions at bay.
Both teams came out firing in a fast-paced first quarter that ended in a 14-14 tie. LM slowly took control in a more defensive second frame, leading by as many as seven before the Lions closed the gap to 28-24 at halftime.
The Aces opened the second half with more defensive pressure, harassing Penncrest’s guards and forcing consecutive turnovers. A steal and layup by Khadafy Bilal ’17 and three-ball by Steve Payne ’19 gave LM a nine-point lead early in the third quarter. But the Lions battled back and drew within three at 41-38 heading into the fourth.
LM slowed the game down offensively in the final frame, spreading the ball around and selectively attacking the basket. Payne opened the scoring with a driving layup, then found a cutting Noah Fennell ’17 for an and-one layup on the ensuing possession, giving LM a 46-38 lead.
Penncrest would go on a run of their own, capitalizing on several LM miscues and drilling consecutive threes to tie things up at 48 with less than three minutes to play. The Aces countered with tough baskets by Jack Forrest ’19 and Terrell Jones ’17 and locked in defensively on the Lions’ final possessions. The Aces would then ice the game at the free throw line, with Forrest and Jones nailing four straight. The duo also provided the night-capper as Jones found Forrest in transition for a game-sealing dunk. A three-ball at the buzzer by Penncrest sealed the final margin.
For Coach Gregg Downer, the game at his alma mater always holds special meaning and many of his former Lions teammates were on hand along with family and friends. This year's contest was particularly poignant as his father, Bob Downer, returned to the sidelines to cheer on the Aces for the first time in several years. Following the game, the team joined Mr. Downer for an on-court photo and offered their well-wishes.
This was an important win against a worthy opponent and critical in the Aces’ climb up the Central League standings. LM is now in second place in the league with three games left to play. The team will need another strong road performance on Friday night as they take on Ridley at 7 PM.