STOPPED SHORT OF GOAL

Abing­ton falls in Dis­trict 1 fi­nal to CB West

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - SPORTS - By An­drew Robin­son arobin­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @adrobin­son3 on Twit­ter

KING OF PRUS­SIA >> Dy­lan Smith saved his best for last.

A last-ditch free kick by Abing­ton had given the Gal­lop­ing Ghosts as good an op­por­tu­nity as they would get at an equal­izer in the fi­nal half-minute of the Dis­trict 1-4A fi­nal against CB West. Af­ter the ini­tial ser­vice fell to the ground amidst a mass of bod­ies, Reese Gibbs was able to turn and shoot at the gap­ing wide-open net.

Smith, who was in that clus­ter of hu­man­ity and still fall­ing, man­aged some­how to spring up­ward and push the ball up and off the cross­bar. It was the kind of save only he could make and it was the one that saved the Bucks.

Be­hind an­other stand­out ef­fort from Smith and a ter­rific of­fen­sive game from Jimi Leder, No. 6 CB West edged No. 4 Abing­ton 2-1 in a stir­ring dis­trict ti­tle game Satur­day night at Up­per Me­rion.

“It’s al­most like look­ing in a mir­ror,” Smith said of the two stylis­ti­cally sim­i­lar teams. “They have some great weapons up top and we were just able to find ways to deal with them. Play­ing the way we do, I think it helped us to­day.”

As clutch as he was late, Smith was also in­stru­men­tal in the first half, deny­ing three re­ally good early chances by Abing­ton. The Ghosts have thrived all sea­son on be­ing the first team to score, so West knew it couldn’t af­ford to go down early.

It also meant the Bucks would be un­der a lot of pressure in the back and play­ers like Nick Cen­ten­era, Kyle Holt, James Lutz and Car­son Sny­der would have to be up to their game. Smith at­tributes much of his suc­cess to an im­plicit trust with his backs and it showed again on Satur­day as the se­nior keeper stayed com­posed even with bod­ies hurl­ing around his box.

“I thought it was a lot of fun for both teams, hope­fully, to be a part of,” Bucks coach Ste­fan Szy­giel said. “It was go­ing to be a one-goal game in some­body’s fa­vor and we just hap­pened to come out of it on the 2-1 side tonight.”

Leder has re­ally upped his game this post­sea­son, scor­ing the game-ty­ing goal in the quar­ter­fi­nals against North Penn then the

only goal in a semi­fi­nal win over Spring-Ford, both on the road. The ju­nior looked dan­ger­ous early on Satur­day but he and his team­mates had to wait un­til the sec­ond half to make some­thing of it.

Colin Burn fought through a tackle, re­gained the ball and played into the cen­ter of the box for Leder, who put home a ter­rific fin­ish top shelf to edge West ahead 1-0 with 30:54 left in the game. The mid­fielder, who also noted the strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties in the two sides, said the Bucks just stuck true to their iden­tity and it led to their break­through.

“I feel like I’m find­ing the good spa­ces and just hap­pen to be in the right spot,” Leder said. “I give it up to our mid­field for play­ing the balls in and keep­ing us play­ing West soc­cer.”

Abing­ton didn’t quit af­ter the goal and had a Liam Friel header ring the bar off a cor­ner as they con­tin­ued to hunt for a goal. Sean Touey, who bat­tled sev­eral de­fend­ers any time he touched the ball all night, fi­nally cashed in when he made a de­ter­mined run into the box and thumped home a par­tially de­flected cross from Bryce Lexow with 17:45 left.

“Bryce is a sopho­more who works ex­tremely hard, he’s up and down the field on the right side,” Abing­tong coach Garber said. “They have a good de­fense and their goal­keeper is an out­stand­ing player, so it makes it dif­fi­cult to play against. They score a goal, get on top and usu­ally sew it up 1-0 and (Smith) shuts ev­ery­thing out.”

Garber felt like his team’s direct style ben­e­fit­ted it in try­ing to come back. Abing­ton wants to ap­ply as much pressure as pos­si­ble, and Szy­giel even noted how ag­gres­sive the Ghosts are in pounc­ing on sec­ond balls, so they weren’t

“We’re very, very sim­i­lar,” Garber said. “Their team speed is in­cred­i­ble and it’s some­thing they rightly rely on.

“It’s not like we lost to a team we shouldn’t have lost to. They’re a com­plete team, a very strong team and I guess we just didn’t have enough chances to score.”

The five min­utes fol­low­ing a goal are usu­ally the most im­por­tant for both the team that just scored and the one who just got scored on. West went right back on the of­fen­sive and went right back to Leder, who got dou­bled on the left flank and drew a foul to set up a free kick.

Leder set up over the ball and spun the ser­vice in front of goal, where tar­get man Alan Zlotin didn’t waste the chance to go back in front, stak­ing West up a goal with 15:06 to play.

“I was ac­tu­ally look­ing for the front-post run, I knew Alan was go­ing to make it front post,” Leder said. “We work on that like 100 times a day in prac­tice and it paid off in a big game.”

“He’s grow­ing and evolv­ing as the sea­son is grow­ing and evolv­ing and what I’m see­ing from him is he’s tap­ping into an­other level,” Szy­giel said of Leder. “He’s a com­peti­tor and that’s what we need. We need a player to step up and give us a hero mo­ment and maybe be in­volved in an­other hero mo­ment and that’s what he did tonight.”

The fi­nal min­utes of the game was a mael­strom of phys­i­cal chal­lenges, bombed balls up and down the pitch and guys throw­ing ev­ery last bit of what they had into an op­por­tu­nity.

“The guys in front of me killed it, again, that’s been the story of our run,” Smith said. “Af­ter they tied it, it kind of just goes into our ex­pe­ri­ence from last year, there aren’t many sit­u­a­tions we haven’t been in. This game, we looked around and said it’s not the first time this hap­pened and it cer­tainly won’t be the last.”

Both teams head into states on Tues­day. Abing­ton will face Dis­trict 11 run­ner-up Em­maus while the Bucks get a stiff test in Cen­tral Dauphin, the third place fin­isher out of Dis­trict 3.

Smith pointed to the team’s sec­ond reg­u­lar sea­son meet­ing with North Penn, a 4-3 vic­tory in over­time as the mo­ment where the last bits of last year’s run to the state semi­fi­nals wore off and this team took own­er­ship of its own iden­tity.

“It means we show up in big games, hon­estly,” Smith said. “At the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, the goal was states. Ev­ery game in states will be a big game. We’ve been able to show up in big games so far and hope­fully that con­tin­ues.

“This feels good, but I think a state cham­pi­onship might feel a lit­tle bet­ter.”

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Abing­ton’s Bryce Lexow (11) and Cen­tral Bucks West’s Nick Cen­ten­era (3) mix it up in the PIAA Dis­trict 1 Cham­pi­onship at Up­per Me­rion High School Sa­trur­day night.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Cen­tral Bucks West’s Sny­der Car­son (8) con­trols the ball ahead of Abing­ton’s Michael Burn­stein (14) in the sec­ond half of the PIAA DIs­trict 1 Cham­pi­onship at Up­per Me­rion High School Satur­day night.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Abing­ton’s Liam Camp­bell (4) and Cen­tral Bucks West Sny­der Car­son (8) bat­tle in the sec­onf half of the PIAA Dis­trict 1 Cham­pi­onship at Up­per Me­rion High School Satur­day night.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Cen­tral Bucks West cap­tain Bai­ley Moyer holds up the PIAA Dis­trict 1 Cham­pi­onship tro­phy at Up­per Me­rion High School Satur­day night.

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