There have been moments this season -- breathtaking, scintillating moments -- when the Aces appear to be on to something special. When the court becomes their personal canvas of rich and compelling contrasts - speed and power, grit and grace, fury and fun. When swishes, dunks, dives and defense -- especially defense -- capture the imagination of a fan base hungry for a long, postseason run.
On Tuesday night, the Aces had one of those moments. Actually, it lasted about 14 minutes.
Trailing Haverford 4-3 midway through a taught first quarter, LM exploded on a 31-6 run to close the half that was surgical in its precision and equal opportunity in its highlights. Yohanny Dalembert '13 (11 points, 4 blocks, 6 rebounds) turned in some of his best minutes of the season, swatting multiple shots and patrolling the glass to key the Aces' fast break and going a perfect 3-3 from the field and 3-3 from the foul line. Raheem Hall '13 (8 points) and JaQuan Johnson '14 ricocheted across the hardwood like pinball wizards on overdrive, racking up deflections and steals, and turning an electric transition game on replay. Johnson had 11 of his game-high 15 points in the second quarter. BJ Johnson '13 (12 points) drilled two deep threes, one to cap a beautiful offensive series and another off a drive and kick feed from JaQuan. Justin McFadden '13 and Bryce Williamson '12 delivered with heavy defensive pressure and their usual unselfish play. The Aces' bench fed off the on-court energy and remained on their feet for much of the half.
When the second quarter buzzer sounded, the Aces were up 35-9 and the game was effectively over.
After the emotional high of the first half, the Aces understandably had trouble sustaining their level of play in quarters three and four. With the exception of some inspired minutes from Darryl Reynolds '12 (9 points, 3 blocks), who had been relegated to the bench with foul trouble in the first half, LM put things in cruise control during the final 16 minutes en route to a 59-32 victory. The Aces handed Haverford its largest margin of defeat on the season and completed a convincing, two-game sweep of the much-improved Fords.
There were some important takeaways from LM's dazzling first-half on Tuesday. Great things happen when this team locks it in defensively, makes extra passes and values the basketball. The run didn't include a single highlight-reel dunk, and it didn't have to -- for Aces Nation, the greatest satisfaction and the most special moments have always come from unselfish play, extraordinary defensive intensity and a hard hat approach to success. What makes this year's bunch so intriguing is their ability to take the classic, old-school elements of Aces basketball and marry them with a new, supercharged engine. If these Aces can do it consistently, there will undoubtedly be more special moments to come.
Next up for LM is a matchup at home on Friday against Ridley. Tip-off is 7:30 PM, preceded by Senior Night activities. This year, the Aces will honor three outstanding seniors -- Mike Robbins, Darryl Reynolds and Bryce Williamson. Friday marks the final home game of the 2011-12 regular season.