By Shani Lindspragen '20
Harrison Klevan ?18 drilled three three-pointers in the third quarter, part of a decisive 19-7 run, to lift the Aces to a 72-59 victory over Garnet Valley in the Central League semifinals.
It was a back and forth game at the start, with the Aces and Jaguars trading baskets in a 16-16 first quarter. Steve Payne ?19 had the hot hand early, scoring eight points in the frame. Jack Forrest ?19 got going in the second quarter, knocking down a three-pointer and attacking the middle of the Garnet Valley zone en route to 11 first-half points. Meanwhile, the Jaguars offense was clicking, and it seemed that neither team could manage consecutive stops. At the end of the half, the score was tied at 32-32.
After a tight first four minutes after halftime, Josh Martin ?19 started the Aces? run with a driving and-one layup, giving LM a 39-36 lead. After a Garnet bucket, Forrest drilled a three and the Aces began to turn on the heat, forcing tempo with a full-court press. A Forrest steal and layup in the backcourt was followed by a Garnet miss and a Martin layup. But Garnet answered with a three of their own. After an Aces turnover and another Garnet bucket, LM?s lead had been shaved to 46-43. But LM forced another steal and Payne found Klevan for a three with less than a minute to play in the quarter. Eight seconds later, Darryl Taylor ?19 found Klevan in transition after a Jaguars miss and the senior knocked down another trey to push the margin to 52-43. Yet another steal gave LM the last shot of the quarter and Klevan made the Jaguars pay once again ? drilling his third straight three and giving the Aces a 55-43 lead heading into the fourth.
The Aces controlled clock and tempo and sank 9-11 free throws in the final frame to keep the Jaguars and their high-octane offense at bay. LM maintained a double-digit advantage for the entire period.
Payne and Taylor combined to limit Jaguars all-time leading scorer Austin Laughlin to a hard-earned 20 points.
For the second consecutive year and sixth time since the Central League launched its playoff format ten years ago, the Aces are headed to the finals. They?ll take on top-seeded Penncrest Tuesday night at 8 PM at Harriton High School.