Long after the final buzzer had sounded, medals awarded, and water mopped from a frenzied postgame locker room celebration on Friday night, the Aces lingered in conversation around a roaring fire pit at a teammate’s home.
They reflected on a remarkable night in the District 1 final, one in which they caught fire early and dominated throughout in a 62-41 victory. The Aces had runs of 13-0 in the first half and 17-2 in the second, forcing running clock when the lead hit 30 points at 50-20.
They recalled a year in which they didn’t think there would even be a 2020-21 season. With COVID-19 raging, the squad did the best they could just to stay together, holding workouts over zoom and practicing in local parks.
They reminisced about a summer trip in which they formed a bubble at a summer camp in Massachusetts, playing basketball, taking hikes, and thinking it might be the only time they’d be able to spend sustained, quality time as a team.
They remembered the passing of LM’s heartbeat, Kobe Bryant, in the final weeks of last season, and how they rallied to honor him in a playoff push that ended prematurely with the start of the pandemic.
They wondered what might have been had they not been in quarantine during the Central League playoffs.
But mostly, they laughed and cajoled and soaked it all in with a sense of pride -- and purpose. It had been 25 years since the last District title -- won by a Kobe Bryant-led Aces team that went on to win a state championship. The 2021 Aces won this for all those who came before them. They won it for the chance to extend the program’s remarkable streak of 11-straight state playoff appearances (a feat that this year could only be accomplished by winning a district title). They won it for a chance to do like Kobe did, and play for a state championship.
On Tuesday night, that’s exactly what they’ll do. LM will host the state semifinals with a trip to Hershey on the line.
The fire is burning. The Aces are moving on.
Josh Verln/City of Basketball Love
Bruce Adams/Main Line Times
Andrew Robinson/PA Prep Live