La Salle de­nied

Man­heim Town­ship puts clamps on La Salle in state cham­pi­onship

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - SPORTS - By An­drew Robin­son arobin­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ADRobin­son3 on Twit­ter

WEST CH­ESTER » The ball was on the ground.

As soon as it touched the turf at West Ch­ester East, the PIAA 3A boys lacrosse game be­tween La Salle and Man­heim Town­ship hung in the bal­ance. Ad­van­tages awaited whichever team man­aged to grab the ground ball, so it nat­u­rally drew a crowd.

The ball bounced free of the scrum to Grayson Sal­lade, who gath­ered it up and con­nected on a high­light-wor­thy shot to put Man­heim Town­ship up two.

Two min­utes and forty-five sec­onds later, Sal­lade hurled his stick and gloves into the air, join­ing a pa­rade of Blue Streaks team­mates as they cel­e­brated their 6-4 win over the Ex­plor­ers.

“We were push­ing up from X pretty hard, they stick-checked pretty hard where the ball came out and it fell into a scrum, I think two of our guys and two of their guys,” Sal­lade, a Univer­sity of Vir­ginia re­cruit, said. “Luck­ily, some­one bat­ted it out, I got it and went to the mid­dle and there was no­body there be­cause they were ready to clear so it was wide open and I was able to put it over the goalie’s shoul­der.”

Man­heim Town­ship be­came the first team from out­side Dis­trict I or 12 to win a state lacrosse ti­tle on Satur­day and in do­ing so, de­nied La Salle its first state cham­pi­onship since 2013. The Blue Streaks got a tremen­dous de­fen­sive ef­fort led by goalie Caton John­son, a North Carolina re­cruit, who made 10 saves.

For the Ex­plor­ers, who had been play­ing ex­cel­lent team lacrosse all through the post­sea­son, some­thing seemed amiss once Satur­day’s game started. While the Ex­plor­ers all cred­ited Man­heim Town­ship for be­ing the bet­ter team on the day, they felt they also didn’t de­liver their best game.

“I thought they played bet­ter in every fash­ion, we didn’t play a great game to­day and I’m not sure who that was ex­actly to­day on our side,” La Salle coach Bill Leahy said. “They were good, and all con­grat­u­la­tions to Man­heim but it was frus­trat­ing.”

Sal­lade said he and his team­mates were ready for La Salle’s me­thod­i­cal pace to the game and

the Blue Streaks showed they could hang that way as well, work­ing the ball pa­tiently on of­fense. Both sides had long spells of pos­ses­sion which was a tes­ta­ment to both de­fenses not giv­ing any­thing easy but also both of­fenses play­ing pa­tiently.

Bren­dan Meagher started the scor­ing in the first quar­ter and his goal with 4:13 left in the sec­ond quar­ter sent the teams into the break at a 2-2 dead­lock with Man­heim Town­ship’s Ed­die New­man strik­ing twice for the Dis­trict 3 cham­pi­ons in the first half.

“I don’t know what it was, I guess at the end of the day we’re still teenagers in high school and some days you just don’t have it,” Meagher said. “Maybe it was just one of those days for us. Our coaches did a great job of get­ting us ready for their de­fense, I think where they got us was of­fen­sively, they con­trolled the ball great. They pos­sessed it so well and we were ex­pect­ing them to play a lot faster.”

Sal­lade put the Blue Streaks up 3-2 with 9:22 left in the third quar­ter, giv­ing Man­heim Town­ship a lead it wouldn’t lose the rest of the way. Zach Di­a­mond pushed it out to a two-goal lead about four min­utes later and the Ex­plor­ers were then fight­ing a ma­jor up­hill bat­tle.

Matt Clibanoff pulled a goal back for La Salle at the end of the quar­ter but noted there were a lot of ar­eas the Ex­plor­ers weren’t win­ning.

“Ground balls, win­ning a face­off draw, maybe even kick­ing a ball into open space, those are all things that sep­a­rate a team from be­ing a cham­pion,” Clibanoff said. “I don’t think we got slowed down, but (John­son) had ev­ery­one’s num­ber. When you have op­por­tu­ni­ties that present them­selves, you have to fin­ish. That’s what it comes down, even in school, the class­room, when you have an op­por­tu­nity, you must fin­ish it.”

Bryce Hutchin­son scored what would be the gamewin­ner with 8:30 left in the fourth quar­ter for a 5-3 lead. John­son was out­stand­ing in net, mak­ing sev­eral dif­fi­cult saves and stops on a cou­ple of point­blank takes.

Sal­lade played a lot of two-way lacrosse, say­ing he nor­mally isn’t out for de­fen­sive pos­ses­sions but just felt com­pelled to keep him­self on the field. It gave him a pretty good view of his team­mate’s play be­tween the posts.

“He’s the best goalie in the state,” Sal­lade said of John­son. “He just makes play­ing de­fense so easy. He saves 90 per­cent of the shots that go to him. He’s my best friend and I be­lieve he’s the best goalie in the state.”

Ethan La­Mond cut the lead to 5-4 with 3:40 left, giv­ing La Salle a glim­mer of hope so long as it could find a way to get the ball back. That chance came with a shade less than three min­utes left when the Ex­plor­ers dis­lodged the ball.

De­fense­man Joe Burnham found him­self in the mid­dle of the scrum chas­ing that piv­otal ground ball.

“It was loose, we had num­bers there but we weren’t in a good enough po­si­tion that if they were to pick it up, it was a straight shot at the goal and we were set if we picked it up, we would have been able to clear it, so it’s a case where you have to get the ground ball or you’re go­ing to give up some­thing big,” Burnham said. “We do drills like that in prac­tice all the time. We just couldn’t win it when it was im­por­tant.”

The ball was on the ground.

“It’s hard to ex­plain,” Sal­lade said. “It’s hard to ex­plain how much we put into this. Not a lot of peo­ple un­der­stand what we do, the grit our team has, the be­lief, the trust in each other. We wanted it so bad and we came out and de­liv­ered it.”

MARK PALCZEWSKI/FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Bren­dan Meagher 0f La Salle takes a break at the half against Man­heim Town­ship in the PIAA Class 3A boys’ lacrosse cham­pi­onship at West Ch­ester East High School in West Ch­ester, PA on Satur­day, June 9, 2018.

MARK PALCZEWSKI/FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Matt Clibanof (3) of La Salle drives to the Man­heim Town­ship net in the PIAA Class 3A boys’ lacrosse cham­pi­onship at West Ch­ester East High School in West Ch­ester, PA on Satur­day, June 9, 2018.

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