By Sam Oshtry '19 and Brett Whitely '18
The Aces are returning to the Central League playoffs. After a one-year hiatus, the team clinched a postseason berth with their 63-62 win at Ridley on Friday night - capping a trifecta of gritty road victories against some of the league?s top teams.
As was the case in the previous two outings ? wins agains Conestoga and Penncrest ? Friday?s game was competitive until the final buzzer. After opening up a 15-11 lead in the first quarter behind three-balls from Terrell Jones ?17, Noah Fennell ?17 and Jack Forrest ?17, the Aces watched their advantage disappear during a 15-1 Ridley run to open the second frame. After a timeout, LM came roaring back, outscoring the Green Raiders 10-1 over the last four minutes of the quarter with senior Najja Walker-X drawing a key charge and providing a defensive spark. The Aces ended the half down 27-26.
The Aces? strong play carried over to the second half as the team opened an eight point lead early in the third thanks to good ball movement and continued hot three-point shooting from Jones, Fennell, Forrest and Steve Payne ?19. A Ridley three-ball and free throw narrowed the gap to 43-39 heading into the fourth quarter. LM led throughout the final frame, building a ten-point cushion with less than four minutes to play after Fennell found Payne in transition for a layup. But Ridley -- the defending league champs -- wouldn?t quit. The Green Raiders chipped away and drew to within three on a three-ball with less than seven seconds to play, but Theo Henry ?19 knocked down a free throw on the ensuing Aces possession, sealing an LM victory despite a trey by the Green Raiders at the buzzer.
It was a balanced scoring effort for the Aces with multiple players making key contributions. Payne led the way with 16 points. Jones (15 points), Forrest (14 points), Darryl Taylor ?19 (9 points, 7 rebounds) Fennell (8 points, 5 rebounds) and Henry (1 point) rounded out the scoring.
The Aces came up big during a tough stretch, knocking off three teams in the top half the Central League standings on the road to punch a ticket to the league semifinals. The Aces return home for the final two games of the regular season, taking on Upper Darby at 7 PM on Tuesday and Haverford at 7 PM on Thursday for Senior Night.