Hosting their first holiday tournament in more than a decade, the Aces aimed to please on Tuesday night. The Bryant Gymnasium sparkled. The concession stand was stocked. There was a nice, catered spread for participating teams and officials. And of course, every player received the obligatory Lower Merion/Coaches vs. Cancer Classic 2011 t-shirt.
Unfortunately, for Church Farm -- the Aces' first opponent -- the pleasantries didn't extend to the court.
Lower Merion dismantled the Griffins, rolling to an 81-52 victory. Four Aces players reached double figures in the scoring column, led by junior guard BJ Johnson who tallied 26 points on 8-10 shooting (8-8 FT). The Aces extended their lead in every quarter and held the Griffins (4-1) to just 23 second-half points, half of which came late in the fourth quarter when the game had been long decided.
LM used superior size and athleticism to wear down Church Farm. Center Darryl Reynolds '12 (11 points) and frontcourt mate Yohanny Dalembert '13 (14 points) dominated the paint on both ends of the floor. Dalembert scored ten points in the first half when Reynolds went to the bench with foul trouble. Reynolds dropped all 11 of his points after halftime. The tandem combined for five blocked shots and 14 rebounds.
The Aces' guard play was just as strong. In addition to Johnson, who scored in a variety of ways and punctuated the fourth quarter with a soaring dunk off a steal, LM also received big contributions from Raheem Hall '13 (17 points, 8 rebounds), Jaquan Johnson '14 (team-high 5 assists) and Mike Robbins '12 (4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists, 2 blocks). Justin McFadden '14 was a defensive menace, blocking three shots and making hustle plays all night long. Bryce Williamson '12 (6 points) gave the Aces a big lift off the bench.
Church Farm, the defending District 1A Champions, never looked comfortable. The Aces changed defensive looks and used heavy ball pressure to disrupt the Griffins' offensive attack. The 81 points allowed by Church Farm was the most given up by the Griffins since the 2009-10 season.
The big win made it easier for the Aces to enjoy the generous post-game spread, but as hosts of the party, they still have a lot of hard work left to do on the court. That includes a daunting match-up with Emmaus in the final on Wednesday night at 7:45 PM. The talented, tough, senior-laden Hornets led from start to finish in a 51-42 win over Baltimore-area power Calvert Hall 51-42 in the tournament opener, improving their record to 5-1.