The Aces handled their first major road test of the year with a solid, satisfying 62-47 victory over Conestoga on Friday night.
Raheem Hall '13 led all scorers with 21 points in a scintillating effort on both sides of the ball. The junior guard shot 4-4 from the foul line and had a team-high five assists to go along with four steals, five rebounds and a blocked shot. After Conestoga took an early 5-0 lead, Hall split the seams of the Pioneers' perimeter defense and scored the Aces' first bucket on a high-arching shot off the glass. He then stole the ball at half-court and fed a streaking Mike Robbins '12 (12 points, 3-4 FT) who brought the house down with a rim-rocking two-handed jam. Conestoga responded with a time-out, but the Aces had begun their steady, relentless march towards victory.
LM extended its lead to seven points by halftime, eight by the end of the third, then broke the game open in the fourth. BJ Johnson '13, who finished with 17 points -- all but four coming in the second half -- gave LM its first double-digit lead on the opening play of the final frame, drilling a deep three from the right wing. Johnson also made his way into the highlight reel with a tip dunk off an offensive rebound and shot 4-8 from beyond the arc. The Aces pushed the margin to as many as 17 late in the game thanks to solid free-throw shooting, including a pair each from sophomore Jaquan Johnson and freshman Corey Sherman.
The Aces rallied to close a big hole in the line-up on Friday night. Playing without starting senior center Darryl Reynolds, who was home recovering from the flu, LM turned to emerging junior forward Yohanny Dalembert (6 points, 6 rebounds) and gritty sophomore swingman Justin McFadden (2 points, 4 rebounds) to help keep the Pioneers' tall, talented front line in check. McFadden took two key charges and Dalembert had four blocked shots, including a vicious rejection of a third quarter lay-up attempt that ended up in the cheap seats. Robbins also took shifts in the paint and was his usual disruptive self in the passing lanes.
Hall was in high gear all night, maneuvering with speed and precision through the Pioneers' defense like a Ferrari in a go-kart race. Ultimately, and most importantly, the flash and dash was backed up by substance as Hall and his teammates got an important win over a solid opponent. With two minutes left to go in the game, the vociferous Dawg Pound -- whose performance in the stands was as effective as the players' efforts on the court -- delivered an appropriate send-off in the final game before break. Channeling the spirt of the season, they broke out in song to wish the Berwyn crowd "a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
The Aces return to action next Tuesday at 7:30 PM against defending PIAA Class A state champs Church Farm in the first night of the Lower Merion/Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (at LM). Tickets are $5 and proceeds help benefit Coaches vs. Cancer.