The Aces flipped the script on Thursday night, battling back from a 26-19 halftime deficit to beat Harriton 45-43 on the road. It was a tough, gritty effort by the Aces in an electric environment, against a talented Rams team that many expect to be a contender in the Central League.
For the first time this season, the Aces trailed at halftime. And for the first time, they came back to pull out a tight game late. It was an important test -- one the Aces passed with clutch, calm play and an exceedingly stingy defense. LM allowed just three field goals over the last 12 minutes of the game and held the Rams to just five points in the fourth quarter.
The Aces and Rams traded baskets at the start of the third before the Aces began their decisive surge. A three from Justin McFadden ?14 and a pull-up two from Corey Sherman ?15 narrowed Harriton?s lead to four with just over four minutes to play in the frame. An Aces stop led to a fast-break opportunity for Jule Brown ?15 who rose for an emphatic dunk that closed the gap to 35-33, forced a Rams time-out and sent the Dawg Pound ? more than 400 strong ? into a frenzy. It was a signature moment for the junior swingman and arguably the play of the game.
One possession and one more Aces stop later, JaQuan Johnson ?14 drove the paint to tie the contest at 35-35. On the ensuing Rams possession, Johnson and Nick Jones ?15 teamed for a backcourt steal, which led to a Jones lay-in and the Aces? first lead of the game at 37-35. The Rams would respond with a three at the end of the quarter, but it would prove to be their final lead of the game. The Aces held a small lead through most of the final frame and thwarted a late comeback.
Up five with less than two minutes to play, the Aces found themselves tied at 43 after clutch free throws and a three by the Rams. On LM?s final offensive possession, Johnson drove the lane and found a cutting Brown for the game-winning layup. Harriton had less than five seconds to answer, but LM?s defense held the Rams without a shot attempt.
Johnson played a strong game at the point, tallying 12 points, 7 assists and just two turnovers, while harassing Harriton?s guards all night. Jones played cool and composed in his first crosstown rivalry game, sinking 5-6 free throws en route to 9 points. McFadden overcame early foul trouble to tally 8 points and 8 rebounds, including two huge offensive boards that helped sustain the Aces? second-half surge. Brown (8 points), Sherman (5 points), Steve Pendleton ?15 (3 points) rounded out the Aces? scoring. KJ Helton ?15 and Oliver Henry ?14 also provided a lift off the bench.
The Aces recorded 17 assists and just 9 turnovers, an impressive ratio at any level of basketball. They outrebounded the Rams 14-5 in final two quarters after getting torched on the glass 20-9 in the first half.
But the most important numbers were on the scoreboard at the end of the game. LM found a way to win a very exciting high school basketball game. And after a few recent tough finishes, that?s really all they needed to do.
LM returns to action Saturday at 12:30 PM at St. Joe?s Prep.