The Aces added an enormous exclamation point to their amazing 2011-12 Central League run, crushing Upper Darby 71-31 in the league title game on Saturday night at Penncrest.
LM claimed its first league championship since 2009 and finished undefeated in league play (17-0) for the first time since 1996.
But even the great '96 team didn't achieve the level of league dominance of this year's squad. The Aces won every Central League game by double-digits, with an average margin of victory of more than 26 points. On Saturday, in the league championship game, they forced running clock throughout the entire fourth quarter. For a twelve minute stretch that spanned most of the second and third quarters, they held the Royals completely scoreless. Upper Darby suffered its third loss of the season to LM and its worst margin of defeat to any opponent.
The Aces were so effective in their efforts that the cheering sections for both teams were left to sit (or stand, in the case of the very large Dawg Pound) for much of the game and simply ponder the magnitude of the performance or type "smh" on their mobile devices. LM put on a defensive clinic, forcing 26 turnovers and smothering the Royals at every turn. The offense was equally effective. Nine players entered the scoring column and LM shot nearly 60% from the field.
Up 17-11 going into the second frame, the Aces erupted on a 40-6 run punctuated by threes from Corey Sherman '15, BJ Johnson '13, Justin McFadden '14 and Raheem Hall '13 and several strong finishes at the rim by Jaquan Johnson '14. LM's punishing transition game was keyed by the rebounding and energetic play of forwards Yohanny Dalembert '13 and Darryl Reynolds '12, who helped limit Upper Darby to three total offensive rebounds for the game.
Hall finished with a game-high 20 points. Dalembert added 13 points and 8 rebounds.
The win was particularly sweet for head coach Gregg Downer as it came on the home floor of his alma mater with numerous friends and family members in attendance. Downer earned his tenth Central League title as Aces coach to go along with the one he earned as a player in 1980 for Penncrest.
It was a total team effort and a truly remarkable, historic night.
And now, after a brief pause to celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment, the journey continues for LM. On Sunday, the Aces will learn their seeding and first-round match-up in the District 1 tournament. Complete playoff details will be posted on aceshoops.com.
LM: 17 22 18 14 - 71
UD: 11 4 2 14 - 31
Dalembert 13, Williamson 2, Sherman 3, Shapiro 2, Reynolds 5, McFadden 5, R. Johnson 9, J. Johnson 12, Hall 20