The Aces turned on the heat after a sluggish start and beat Conestoga 59-42 in round one of the PIAA District 1 Playoffs. LM jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the first quarter and never trailed, but it wasn't until a 16-3 fourth quarter that they finally put the Pioneers away for good.
JaQuan Johnson '14 led all scorers with 18 points, playing with his usual passion and grit. The Aces' speedy junior point guard was a menace on both sides of the ball, relentlessly attacking the rim for layups, knocking down a second-half three and coming up with a team-high four steals. BJ Johnson '13 (11 points), Yohanny Dalembert '13 (11 points, 4 blocks), Justin McFadden '14 (9 points, 7 rebounds), Raheem Hall '13 (6 points) and Corey Sherman '15 (5 points) rounded out the scoring. McFadden had six straight points during the Aces' decisive final frame.
LM had numerous chances to break the game open through the first three quarters, but it appeared there was a lid on the basket. Layup attempts and easy jumpers -- shots the Aces normally make -- rimmed out. During one second quarter sequence, the Aces had six consecutive looks off offensive rebounds, including two dunk attempts and still could not convert. Thankfully, strong defense and rebounding kept Conestoga at arm's length until the Aces got in sync. LM held Conestoga's leading scorer, Zach Yonda, to just three points. Credit the underdog Pioneers, however -- playing with nothing to lose -- for a solid game plan and scrappy effort.
It's been said that the mark of a good team is one that can still win when not playing at its best. That would certainly describe the Aces on Friday night. Although it wasn't pretty, any win at this time of year is a big one as winners advance and losers go home.
LM returns to action on Tuesday night against another Central League foe -- the Penncrest Lions. Penncrest beat Spring-Ford 49-47 in other round one action. Tip-off Tuesday is 7 PM in the Bryant Gymnasium.
The Central League finished 6-1 in the opening round of Districts, with the Aces, Ridley, Upper Darby, Harriton, Strath Haven and Penncrest all advancing. Fifteen of the top sixteen seeds won on Friday, though most of the games were highly competitive. Only four games, including the Aces' win over Conestoga, were decided by margins of more than 16 points.