In a small, sticky high school gym four hours from home, the Aces played like they wanted to go to the big gym just down the road.
LM crushed Erie Cathedral Prep 79-48 at Bald Eagle Area High School in Wingate, PA, then took a ten mile ride to check out their next stop -- Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center - home of the 2012 PIAA Finals.
More than 500 crazed LM fans were in the stands on Wednesday night and the Aces gave them a performance that made for a very memorable road trip. For Aces Nation, it was also a bit of d'j' vu. In 2005, LM beat Erie Prep in the state semifinals at nearby State College High.
After Erie took a 13-12 lead near the end of a back and forth first quarter, Mike Robbins '12 hit a three to give the Aces the lead for good. LM would never look back, extending their lead to 18 in a decisive 17-0 second quarter run and pushing the margin to more than 30 points in the final frame.
Robbins delivered his most complete performance since returning from injury at the start of the playoffs. The senior swingman had a season-high 16 points and added four rebounds, three assists and two big blocks, including a game-changing swat in the 2nd quarter that ignited the Aces' surge.
It was an all-around effort for the Maroon & White, who played hard and smart and with extra motivation to honor beloved manager Mike Scott '13. Scott arrived at the game on crutches after suffering a leg injury earlier in the day.
BJ Johnson '13 drilled three treys en route to 18 points and collected seven rebounds, many of which seemed to come in a different stratosphere. Darryl Reynolds '12 finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and dominated the paint. JaQuan Johnson '14 (13 points) and Raheem Hall '13 (9 points) harassed Erie's guards and helped neutralize the Ramblers' high-scoring perimeter attack. Justin McFadden, Yohanny Dalembert and Bryce Williamson also played important minutes.
The Aces shot 15-19 from the free throw line and converted with similar precision in the transition game. LM outclassed the Ramblers with superior speed and size, and executed at both ends of the floor.
Williamson provided the evening's exclamation mark - a one-handed jam on the right baseline late in the fourth that sent the Dawg Pound into an absolute frenzy. The moment of realization had arrived - the Aces were heading to the Finals. As the buzzer sounded, LM fans streamed onto the court in a celebratory stampede.
On Saturday, the Aces will board the buses and head west once again for the ultimate road trip - a trip to the State Finals.