The Aces battled to the wire on Friday night, but came up just short against Conestoga 51-47. After clawing back from a seven-point second half deficit, LM had two chances to take the lead late in the fourth, but could not convert. In fact, the Aces? only lead came on the game?s first bucket. The Pioneers were never able to push the lead to more than seven, however; each time Conestoga seemed like they might get some breathing room, the Aces responded. In the end, it just wasn?t enough.
Jule Brown ?15 led the Aces with 14 points. KJ Helton ?16, Corey Sherman ?15 and Asher Barry ?15 each added nine points. Dion Harris ?17 (4 points) and Eli Needle ?16 (2 points) rounded out the scoring.
The Aces knew they were facing a strong challenge against one of the area?s top-ranked teams. The senior-laden Pioneers return the core of their squad that beat LM in last year?s District quarterfinals and have been rolling through Central League play. The Aces needed some breaks to get through this early season test, but luck ? and buckets ? were tough to come by in Friday?s contest. The Pioneers outrebounded the Aces, held a big advantage at the free throw line, and even tossed in a buzzer-beating half court heave to end the first quarter.
Still, LM battled hard much to the delight of a raucous, toga-wearing Dawg Pound. Trailing by 38-33 with less than six minutes left to play, LM mounted a comeback punctuated by a steal and driving layup by Helton that tied the game at 38-38 and brought the crowd to its feet. The Pioneers responded with two buckets before a Helton three pulled LM back within one at 42-41. The Aces regained possession, but couldn?t convert. Conestoga then nailed consecutive threes to push the lead to 48-41. But the Aces again responded. First, Sherman drilled a deep trey. After a Pioneers free throw, Brown got to the rim, was fouled and knocked down two free throws to pull the Aces within three with less than a minute to play. The Aces fouled and Conestoga, steady from the line all night, came up empty. The Aces had one last chance to tie, but a heavily-contested Sherman heave from beyond the arc was off the mark.
Up next for the Aces is a visit to Marple Newtown on Tuesday at 7 PM. The much-improved Tigers are tied with the Aces at 3-1 in league play.