More than 90 minutes after the game had ended, chants of "Let's Go Aces!" still echoed through the air.
The Dawg Pound had taken their raucous act from the rafters of Norristown High onto the fan buses, and announced their arrival back in Lower Merion with a lusty chorus that could be heard up and down Montgomery Avenue.
It was that kind of night for the Aces and their fans. A night of big, loud arrivals.
LM used a 27-11 second half surge to break open a tight game and knocked off Roman Catholic 67-49 to advance to the quarterfinals of the PIAA AAAA state playoffs.
In doing so, the Aces avenged their 78-75 double-overtime loss to the Cahillites in the season opener and earned a statement win against one of the Catholic League's most storied programs.
Yohanny Dalembert '13 scored a career-high 17 points and added 10 rebounds and five blocks in the victory, including eight points in a decisive third quarter run that gave LM its first breathing room. BJ Johnson '13 added 15 points, 7 rebounds and the evening's exclamation mark -- an emphatic 4th quarter slam over a Roman defender that sent the Dawg Pound into a frenzy.
Raheem Hall '13 (12 points), JaQuan Johnson '14 (9 points), Darryl Reynolds '12 (8 points, 10 rebounds, 6 blocks) and Mike Robbins '12 (6 points) rounded out the scoring.
For much of the first 20 minutes, the game played out much like the first contest between these two teams. The Aces and Cahillites exchanged leads ten times, with LM taking its biggest lead midway through the first quarter at 11-5. Roman found a rhythm in the second quarter, with sophomore guard Shep Garner going for 9 of his 13 points in the period, including two deep treys.
At the 2:18 mark of the 3rd quarter Roman held a 25-21 lead -- its largest -- before Robbins answered with a trey.
A minute later, the Aces tied the game at 27 on a conventional three-point play by Robbins. After a Roman turnover, JaQuan hit a driving layup to give LM a 29-27 lead heading into halftime.
In the second half the Aces got defensive. Using a combination of zones and man-to-man looks, LM held high-flying Roman to just 22 points after the break and limited Garner to just a single field goal. Meanwhile, Dalembert began heating up. The emerging 6'7 junior caught a pretty feed from JaQuan Johnson at the 3:48 mark of the third quarter to give the Aces their largest lead in the frame. LM led 43-48 going into the fourth.
The final quarter was all LM. Hall and JaQuan controlled play from the perimeter and Dalembert and Reynolds imposed their size on the smaller Cahillites, finishing near the rim for a host of layups and dunks. A layup by Hall and the first of BJ's two highlight reel dunks gave the Aces a 52-40 lead with just over five minutes to play. Roman would get no closer the rest of the way.
With the win, LM returns to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. The Aces will play Easton on Saturday -- time and location to be announced Thursday. The Red Rovers beat Del Val 54-50 on Wednesday night.
Information regarding Saturday's contest will be posted on aceshoops.com.
LM 14 15 14 24 67
RC 10 17 11 11 - 49
LM: Dalembert 17, Hall 12, J. Johnson 9, R. Johnson 15, Reynolds 8, Robbins 6
RC: Taylor 7, London 19, Lee 4, Johnson 4, Garner 13, Brown-Johnson 1, Wilkerson 1