By Leo Clibanoff '18 and Mike Medved '19
The Aces concluded a strong 2017 with a split at the Jameer and Pete Nelson Play By Play Classic. LM beat Academy Park 59-47 on Friday at Jefferson University and fell to state-ranked Coatesville in a 60-55 thriller on Saturday at Widener University.
Against Academy Park, the Aces overcame a slow start thanks to a strong second half defensive effort and a sparkling performance from Jack Forrest ’19, who tied a season-high with 26 points.
The Aces trailed 17-10 after one quarter, but outscored the Knights 23-10 in quarter two, with Forrest, Steve Payne ’19 and Julian Hairston ’19 all drilling treys in the frame. LM put the clamps on after halftime, allowing just five points in the third quarter and extending their lead to as many as 17 points. The Knights made a late run to narrow the gap to 12 in the closing seconds, but never really challenged and the Aces cruised to a comfortable victory.
In the second game of the weekend, the Aces faced the defending District 1 champions Coatesville in an intriguing matchup of contrasting styles. The athletic Red Raiders, who return much of their lineup from last season, entered the game ranked sixth in the state in Class 6A. For the Aces, it would be one of their biggest non-league tests of the regular season and a barometer of how they stack up against one of the state’s top teams.
Early on, LM controlled tempo and looked primed to make it a contest, leading 12-11 after the first quarter despite relentless Coatesville pressure. But Jack Forrest ’19 picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and the Red Raiders pounced, outscoring the Aces 20-7 and taking a 31-19 lead into halftime.
Despite the bleak circumstances, LM showed its resolve and turned the tables in the third quarter. The Aces went on a 21-7 run of their own, highlighted by four threes, including two from Matt O’Connor ’19 and one each from Forrest and Steve Payne ’19. Payne also had the difficult task of keeping Coatesville star Jhamir Brickus in check and performed admirably, holding the Red Raiders guard to zero points in the quarter (and a season-low 16 for the game), to anchor LM’s defense. LM led briefly at the end of the frame and trailed 42-40 heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, both teams battled to the wire, with the Aces coming back from a seven-point deficit with less than two minutes to play thanks to clutch threes from Forrest and O’Connor. LM had momentum and the ball down 56-55 with less than 19 seconds to play, but Coatesville regained possession after the officials called a ball-control violation on the Aces in the backcourt. LM was forced to foul and Coatesville sank both free throws to go up 58-55. The Aces tried to find a desperation three-pointer in the closing seconds, but couldn’t connect and Coatesville went the other way to seal the final margin at the buzzer.
Despite the loss, it was a strong effort against a state-caliber opponent. LM received contributions from a number of players and kept their cool in a playoff-like atmosphere. For a team that traditionally plays one of the toughest schedules in District 1, the hope is that this is the kind of test that will pay dividends later in the season.