The Aces turned in perhaps their most impressive performance of the season to date, knocking off undefeated Penncrest 67-59 on Friday in front of a rocking Bryant Gymnasium crowd. LM received numerous individual contributions in victory, but it was an all-around team effort, marked by swarming defense, solid rebounding and clutch shooting. A resurgent, raucous Dawg Pound provided the soundtrack for a night that had a playoff atmosphere -- with both teams playing like the season was on the line. In some ways, it was. Coming off a buzzer-beater loss to Strath Haven, the Aces needed a victory to stay in control of their own destiny in the Central League playoff hunt. The Lions were seeking to stamp their supremacy in the league and deliver a statement win to the District.
Penncrest controlled pace at the outset, using stingy defense to take a 16-7 lead after the first quarter. But the Aces settled in and slowly chipped away, drawing within six by the four-minute mark of the second period. Harrison Klevan ?19 drilled three first-half three-pointers to help the Aces mount their comeback; by halftime, the game had tightened to 25-23.
Steve Payne ?19 opened the scoring in the second half with a deep three from the top of the key to give the Aces their first lead. Another three from Jack Forrest ?19 and buckets by Payne and Josh Martin ?19 kept the Aces in front. With less than two minutes to play in the period, Martin ?19 intercepted a Lions pass near half court and took it the distance for a left-handed slam that ignited the crowd and gave the Aces a six-point advantage. LM would never look back, extending the margin to as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Martin played his best game of the year, posting 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals. Other major contributors were Forrest (17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks), Payne (13 points and 8 assists) and Klevan (15 points, 5-6 from three). Darryl Taylor ?19 was his usual solid self, playing tight defense and hitting several important free-throws down the stretch.
In the end, the Aces got the job done and staked their claim as league contenders, but the journey is far from over. The Aces can take nothing for granted in a league race where just one game now separates five teams.
The Aces look to keep up their momentum when the play at Radnor Wednesday at 7.