The Aces opened the District playoffs in strong fashion, beating Penncrest 57-32 on Friday night in front of an electric Bryant Gymnasium crowd.
LM used a 17-5 first quarter burst to take command of the game and kept the Lions at bay with a stellar defensive performance. The Aces limited the Lions to single digit scoring in three quarters and collected nine steals on the night.
Nine Aces entered the scoring column and four players reached double figures for the game, including BJ Johnson '13 (15 points), Raheem Hall '13 (12 points), JaQuan Johnson (10 points) and Darryl Reynolds '12 (10 points). Reynolds hauled in a game-high 12 rebounds.
After Penncrest point guard Eddie Baxter nailed a three to put the Lions up 5-4 at the 6:05 mark of the first frame, the Aces ripped off 13 unanswered points. JaQuan got things going with a steal and layup. He then had another deflection which Hall converted into a transition bucket. Reynolds followed with a put-back layup. A few minutes and a few more baskets later, BJ punctuated the run with a three-pointer off a pretty feed from JaQuan. The Dawg Pound erupted in delight, and the night was looking like an Aces rout.
Credit the scrappy Lions for keeping their composure and slowing the Aces' surge in the second quarter. Despite playing without a key starter, Penncrest prevented the Aces from blowing open the game and clawed back to draw within 12 (30-18) at halftime.
Try as they might, however, Penncrest was fighting an uphill battle. LM stormed out of the locker room and opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run, capped by perhaps the highlight of the night - a steal by Hall and nifty scoop pass to BJ for a left-handed tomahawk jam in transition. In the fourth, the Aces' lead reached 20 points (47-27) at the 6:08 mark and both teams began to clear the bench.
The game featured a loud and spirited back and forth between two of the best student sections in District 1, with LM's Dawg Pound and Penncrest's "Dog Pound" rocking the rafters and trading barbs all night long. Most exchanges ended with the LM faithful directing Lions fans' attention to the scoreboard.
All in all, it was a solid outing for the Aces and their fans after a long week of preparation and anticipation.
With the win, the Maroon & White advance to round two of the District tournament. LM will host perennial District power Plymouth Whitemarsh on Tuesday night at 7 PM. The Colonials beat Conestoga 51-39 in their playoff opener. Additional information about Tuesday's game will be posted on aceshoops.com in the coming days.
Lower Merion: 20 10 13 14 - 57
Penncrest: 8 10 9 5 - 32
Williamson 1, Shapiro 1, Reynolds 10, McFadden 2, R. Johnson 15, J Johnson 10, Howland 2, Hall 12, Dalembert 4