By Randy Watson '17
The Aces overcame a slow start on Friday night and pulled out a solid 60-52 win against Harriton in the annual contest between LMSD high schools.
As usual, the District rivalry game was played in front of a rocking, sold-out Bryant Gymnasium filled with students, alumni and community members. Typically, the spectacle of the evening outmatches the quality of play on court, with players seemingly distracted by the emotion and energy in the building. This year?s contest was different in that it was generally well-played from start to finish. Harriton showcased its five-guard attack, keeping LM off balance with a barrage of early threes and solid ball control. The Aces countered with a strong perimeter game of their own and disrupted the Rams with relentless pressure.
Three Aces reached double figures on the night, but it was one who didn?t score that might have had the biggest impact on the outcome. Trailing 38-32 midway through the third quarter, LM inserted senior guard Najja Walker-X and exploded on a 15-2 run over the final four minutes of the period to take control of the game.Walker-X came up with a steal and assist to Terrell Jones? 17 for a dunk to pull the Aces within two, then led the break to key a Jack Forrest ?19 three-ball that gave LM its first lead of the game. The sequence ignited the Dawg Pound and rattled the Rams, who turned the ball over six times in the period after a nearly flawless first half. LM would never trail again.
Ultimately, the Aces? depth, athleticism and efficiency in the second half proved to be the difference. LM led by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter before a late Harriton three sealed the final margin.
Jones scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second half. Steve Payne ?19 added 15 points and was dynamite in LM?s transition attack. Forrest added 13 points, with seven coming in the decisive third quarter. Noah Fennell ?17 finished with nine points and delivered a late three-pointer and soaring block to thwart any chance of a Rams comeback. The Aces also received key contributions from Khadafy Bilal (3 points), Darryl Taylor, Theo Henry, Deion Davis and Matt O?Connor, who provided 15 strong minutes off the bench with a charge, five rebounds and two assists.
Friday night?s game was the 3rd Annual Hope Classic benefiting the Angelman?s Syndrome Foundation and Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics.
Six years ago, Aces? assistant coach Kevin Grugan?s daughter, Hope, was diagnosed with Angelman?s Syndrome (AS), a neurogenetic disorder that occurs in one of every 15,000 live births. Characteristics of AS include developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures and walking and balance disorders.
Perhaps the biggest highlight from Friday night was Hope?s pre-game appearance on court with her dad. Hope is a beautiful, amazing girl and an inspiration to all who know her. She took the floor to a standing ovation and grinned from ear-to-ear as her father thanked the crowd for their support of the cause and celebrated her remarkable progress.
The Aces return to action Tuesday night on the road at Upper Darby. Tip-off is 7 PM.