By Leo Clibanoff
The Aces came into Tuesday?s matchup with Garnet Valley looking to notch their third victory in as many games on a difficult road swing against some of the Central League?s top teams. LM handled Springfield and Upper Darby last week and faced another difficult test in the Jaguars, winners of 12 of their last 13 games. Garnet entered the game having scored 90 points in three of their last four contests and had been dominant at home all season. The Aces, playing without the services of starting guard Harrison Klevan ?18 (sidelined with the flu bug) faced an uphill task.
But LM came out swinging and took an early 12-6 lead in the first quarter thanks to strong play from Jack Forrest ?19 and Steve Payne ?19. Forrest drilled two threes in the quarter and Payne found his way to the rim ? and found open teammates (he finished with a game-high 7 assists) ? to push LM to a 20-15 lead heading into the second frame.
Garnet answered in the second quarter, taking advantage of LM foul trouble to knot the game and take a lead late in the period. Zack Slogoff ?18 hit a huge three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to knot the game at 33-33 heading into the break.
Without Klevan?s perimeter scoring, the Aces needed someone to step up in the second half. Julian Hairston ?19 did just that, jumpstarting LM?s offensive attack with three treys off the bench and 11 second-half points. The junior guard also played solid defense in his best outing of the season. Forrest and Payne continued their strong play, and the Aces slowly began to pull away from the Jaguars.
After a layup from Payne to end the third, LM led 52-43 extended their lead to 12 early in the fourth quarter after a huge and-1 dunk attempt from Forrest. Garnet never really threatened as the Aces closed out the game with solid free-throw shooting and steady ball control. A late three by the Jaguars sealed the final margin.
On the defensive end of the floor, Darryl Taylor ?19 led the way. Taylor had the difficult task of guarding Garnet Valley?s Austin Laughlin and did his best to make things difficult for the Jaguars? all-time scoring leader. Taylor also finished with 8 points and 5 assists. The Aces needed and received important contributions from every player who took the floor, including Josh Martin ?19 (7 points 5 rebounds), Matt O?Connor ?19 (2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) and Jared Robinson ?18 (2 points, 3 rebounds).
It was another big win for the Aces against a high-quality opponent, but there is no time to celebrate. LM faces another test on Friday evening as they host Conestoga at 7 PM in the annual Hope Classic benefiting the Angelman?s Syndrome Foundation.