Thirty-two. Not only was that the margin of victory for the Aces over Hazleton on Sunday afternoon, but it may be a new battle cry for a team striving for consistent success. In the pregame locker room, the Aces coaching staff challenged the team to put together a full 32 minutes of great basketball and the boys in Maroon & White responded in a big way. From tip-off to the final whistle, the Aces dominated their opponent with a mix of strong defense, accurate shooting and unselfish play en route to a 75-43 victory. In doing so, LM exacted a bit of revenge that had been simmering for more than a decade. In 1995, Hazleton beat Lower Merion in what would be the final playoff loss of the Kobe Bryant era, a 64-59 overtime thriller in the 2nd round of state play. This year's match-up was part of the Hoop Group's Lehigh Valley Showcase at Parkland HS.
The Aces jumped to a 14-9 first quarter lead, then exploded for 24 points in the second quarter to go into halftime up 38-21. Game MVP Carl Johnson (16 points, five assists, three steals) helped fuel the surge with a steady floor game and high-octane defense. Johnson split the Cougars’ defense at will, flashing an array of pull-up jumpers, strong drives to the basket and beautiful kick-outs to teammates on the perimeter. The Aces hit nine three pointers on the afternoon, led by senior Ben Lucas (12 points), who connected on four of six attempts from beyond the arc.
The Aces continued their fine play in the second half, with Greg Robbins (13 points, 4 assists) helping to lead the charge. Also chipping in with strong contributions were Harley Williamson (9 points, six rebounds, two blocks), Andrew “Andre” King (7 points, 7 rebounds, two blocks), Steve Meehan (6 points, three rebounds), Eric Stahler (3 points, five assists, three rebounds), Kevin Escott (three rebounds), Galloway Green (2 points, three rebounds), Oliver Cohen (3 points), Conor Foote (2 points), Alon Seltzer and Sal D'Angelo. Junior Vince Weldon scored his first two varsity points in the closing minutes of the game.
The Aces truly played a full game; thirty-two minutes of offense, defense, passion, energy, and togetherness. LM's record improves to 16-5. Hazleton Area drops to 14-5.
The Aces resume play this Tuesday in the last regular season home game in the Main Gym against Penncrest. Tuesday is also Senior Night and all members of Aces Nation are invited to celebrate this year’s outstanding group of seniors: Tobi Ajirotutu, Kevin Escott, Galloway Green, Carl Johnson, Andrew King, Ben Lucas, Steve Meehan and manager Matt Lachs. Tip-off is 7:30 PM.