The Bryant Gymnasium has its first signature postseason victory.
After more than 30 minutes of heart-pounding, back-and-forth action between two formidable foes, the Aces used an 11-5 run over the last two minutes of play to outlast Souderton 60-54 and earn a trip to the District Final Four. The Aces' six point advantage at the finish marked the largest lead of the game for either team.
BJ Johnson '13 scored nine of the Aces' last 11 points en route to a team high 23 points. JaQuan Johnson '14, who connected on all six of his free throw attempts, including four in the fourth quarter added 12 points.
LM and Souderton arrived Friday night primed for a showdown. The Indians handled highly-regarded Council Rock North 70-55 in the second round of the district playoffs on Tuesday and were winners of eight of their last nine contests. The Aces were looking to capture a third straight playoff victory at home following their 64-46 win over Plymouth Whitemarsh. LM had the higher seed, but Souderton -- a talented, senior-laden bunch -- looked every bit the part of a major state contender.
Not surprisingly, Friday night's game went down to the wire.
With the score tied at 49-49 at the 1:57 mark, BJ converted a tough drive to the rim and was fouled. He hit the free throw to put the Aces up 52-49. After a Souderton bucket, Johnson answered again on a running bank shot from the left block. Souderton narrowed the gap again to one. JaQuan then found BJ for a layup on a beautiful drive-dish feed making the score 56-53. BJ then added the nightcapper, jumping the passing lane for a steal and racing downcourt for an emphatic slam to put LM up 58-53 with 26 seconds to play. After a block by Darryl Reynolds '13 -- his seventh of the game -- JaQuan sealed the final margin with two free throws.As the final buzzer sounded, the Dawg Pound -- nearly 500-strong and completely delirious from a night of high-drama -- erupted onto the floor in celebration. It was a sweet moment for the Aces and their fans, made possible by remarkably gritty play from the Maroon & White.
It seemed that every time Souderton was primed to steal momentum, the Aces made a clutch play to stem the tide. The Aces erased Souderton's 13-11 first quarter advantage with a 17-11 second quarter. Early in the third, the Aces had three straight possessions to build on a five point lead at 32-27, but Souderton chipped away to narrow the gap at 36-33. The Indians then hit consecutive threes to go up 39-36 with the clock winding down in the frame, but Mike Robbins '12 stopped the bleeding with a tough baseline jumper just before the buzzer.
The two teams would exchange leads four times during a frenetic first four minutes of the final quarter. Raheem Hall '13 and JaQuan Johnson did their best to contain Souderton's dynamic point guard Luke Moyer, who finished with a game-high 26 points and almost singlehandedly kept the Indians in the game on an array of dazzling drives and long threes. Moyer put Souderton up 46-45 on a layup, but Reynolds answered with a bucket in the lane. A deep three by the Indians was followed by two free throws from JaQuan.
With the game knotted at 49-49, Souderton forced a steal and had an opportunity in transition, but Justin McFadden '14 hustled back and laid out in a full horizontal dive to break up a pass. The Aces recovered on a defensive rebound and from there BJ went to work.
Over the final two minutes, the Aces' defense held, and the Indians finally began to tire.
With the win, the Aces advance to play Abington at Temple University's Liacouras Center on Tuesday at 6 PM. LM last reached the District semifinals in 2007.
Details and ticket information to follow on aceshoops.com.
LM: 11 17 10 22 - 60
S: 13 11 15 15 - 54
Scoring: Robbins 2, Reynolds 8, McFadden 3, R. Johnson 23, J. Johnson 12, Hall 9, Dalembert 3