By Sam Oshtry '19
Terrell Jones ?17 drilled a fadeaway 15-footer at the buzzer to give the Aces a thrilling 53-51 win over Penncrest and a trip to the Central League Finals.
Sunday?s game was tight throughout, featuring a number of momentum swings and big shots before Jones?s final dagger. Early in the first half, however, it looked like the Aces wouldn?t even have a chance for late game heroics. Penncrest came out firing on all cylinders, controlling the first quarter and capitalizing on cold LM shooting to take a 19-11 lead at the end of the frame.
The Aces and Lions traded baskets to start the second quarter before Steve Payne ?19 scored 7 straight to put the Aces down one with two minutes to play in the half. Consecutive stops and three-pointers by Jack Forrest ?19 and Jones capped off a critical 15-2 run to give the Aces a 31-26 halftime lead.
The game slowed to a crawl in the third quarter, as the Aces and Lions struggled to find their offensive rhythm. Penncrest chipped away, eventually cutting the Aces lead to 36-35 heading into the final frame.
LM led throughout the fourth quarter thanks to an efficient transition game and two more big threes from Forrest, but Penncrest again battled back, cutting a seven-point Aces advantage at the two-minute mark to just three with less than 40 seconds to play.
An Aces turnover led to a tough, step-back three from Penncrest?s star guard Tyler Norwood that knotted the score at 51-51, setting the stage for the game?s final, thrilling sequence.
With eight seconds to play, Payne pitched the ball to Jones on the left wing. The senior swingman drove towards the rim, but was shadowed by two Lions defenders who stopped his progress at the right elbow. Jones elevated for a fadeaway and landed on his back as the ball swished through the net, igniting a frenzied celebration from Aces Nation. In a season of dramatic twists and turns, the Aces had somehow found their way to the Central League Finals.
It was a solid, team effort -- particularly on the defensive end. Payne and Darryl Taylor ?19 had the difficult assignment of guarding Norwood, but held the sharpshooting Penncrest star to 17 hard-earned points. Jones led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Forrest (15 points), Payne (9 points), Noah Fennell ?17 (7 points), Taylor (3 points) and Khadafy Bilal ?17 (2 points) rounded out the scoring. The Aces also received important contributions off the bench from Theo Henry ?19 and Matt O?Connor ?19.
The Aces will now turn their attention to the Finals and a strong Strath Haven team that knocked off Conestoga in the other semifinal on Sunday. Gametime is 8 PM on Tuesday night at Marple Newtown.