By Leo Clibanoff '18
After two impressive District playoff victories at home, the Aces earned a trip to Temple University’s Liacouras Center for the District Semifinals and a match-up with Abington, the defending District champs. LM entered the game as a decided underdog against one of the state’s top-ranked teams featuring three Division I recruits, including high-major prospect Eric Dixon. Few experts expected the Aces to contend, let alone pull off the upset.
Early on, it appeared the Aces were in over their heads, falling behind 11-2 and looking out of sync on the big stage. But as they have done all season, the Aces showed grit and resolve and slowly worked their way back into the game. Threes by Harrison Klevan ’18 and Steve Payne ’19 and a driving layup by Darryl Taylor ’19 put the Aces on the board in the first quarter; then Jack Forrest ’19 went to work in the second, bringing the Aces within two at 27-25 with a layup and the first of his five treys. At the end of the half, Abington led 32-27.
Forrest opened the scoring in the third quarter with another three to draw the Aces back within two. But Abington, behind the 6'8 Dixon and Ghosts point guard Robbie Heath responded with buckets of their own. Each time LM made a run, Abington seemed to have a response – usually, by pounding the smaller Aces inside.
But LM kept coming. Josh Martin ’19 collected two charges in the third quarter and converted a layup on a beautiful spin move around Dixon, fueling an eruption from the Dawg Pound. With two minutes to play in the quarter LM trailed by two and had possession, but a missed three led to an Abington and-one and the Ghosts led 48-43 heading into the final frame.
The Aces stayed within striking distance in the fourth, but a 7-0 Abington run proved decisive. LM would close within seven, but the Ghosts made enough free throws down the stretch to thwart an LM fourth quarter comeback.
Forrest (21 points) and Payne (17 points) paced the Aces attack and LM drilled 11 treys on the night. It was a strong effort, but not quite enough to topple the Ghosts. Still, it has been a heck of a postseason run for the Aces, who earned a league title a state bid and can finish no lower than fourth place in District 1.
The Aces return to action at home on Saturday at 1 PM to play in their District finale (3/4 seeding game) against CB West.