By Teddy Bailey
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/11/16
It took several memorable comebacks and an overtime to determine the league champions Tuesday night in a Central League season that always was hard to call.
Senior attackman Ryan Manbeck scored 2:29 into the extra period to lift host Garnet Valley to a thrilling 15-14 win over Strath Haven Tuesday night, causing a three-way tie for the Central League crown.
Garnet Valley, Strath Haven and Conestoga – a 13-1 winner over Upper Darby – each finished with 9-2 league records.
Strath Haven (14-3 overall) was aiming for the outright league title after clinching a share of its first league crown last week. Garnet Valley (13-4) also tied for the title last year and Conestoga (12-5) won its first championship since taking the crown outright from 2009-12.
Panthers junior midfielder Will Huestis (seven goals) had given his team a 14-13 lead with 2:11 to play in regulation by scoring four times in an amazing 6-0 run as the Panthers roared back from a 10-5 deficit in the third quarter.
That’s when the host Jaguars showed their mettle.
Virginia commit and Garnet Valley junior attacker Matt Moore sent the game to overtime with 35.9 seconds remaining.
Then, Manbeck became the hero.
“I’m just happy I could do it for my team,” said Manbeck. “I remember the feeling we felt after (losing to Conestoga) and I didn’t want to let that happen again. We knew we could do it.”
With the victory, Garnet Valley defended their share of the Central League championship after splitting the title with Penncrest last season. Conestoga and Strath Haven will join GV as Central League Tri-Champions.
“They’re resilient, they have that fire,” Garnet Valley coach Frank Urso said. “I didn’t even call timeouts. They were ready to go and they wanted it bad. I just had this feeling that they would still find a way to win.”
The Panthers, who also got a pair of goals from Sam Mutz and Tyler Fink, were unable to claim the league championship for their own. Huestis seemingly took the game over in the final quarter with four consecutive goals.
On the flip side, the Jaguars were paced by five goals and three assists from Moore. On offense, the Central League showdown became a 1-on-1 battle between Huestis and Moore.
“Last year it felt great,” Moore said of sharing the league title. “This year it feels amazing because Coach Urso really wanted it. I’m happy for him because he’s been trying to get it for eight years now.”
“He’s awesome,” Urso said of Moore. “He’s the best player I’ve ever coached. He’s probably the best player I’ll ever coach. When he’s on, you let him go. Guy like that, you just let him do his thing.”
Strath Haven coach Jef Hewlings credited his team for its resiliency.
“This was a great high school lacrosse game between two teams that scratched and clawed all night,” he said. “We’re proud of our guys for fighting back after being down most of the night and equally respectful of the talent of a great Garnet squad.
“They made one more play than we did, hats off to them – but our guys never quit, which is exactly how they’ve played all year long.”
Moore and Urso both mentioned the importance of winning a close game. The Jaguars had dropped all three games decided by one goal prior to Tuesday’s win. Most recently, Garnet Valley blew a late three-goal lead to Malvern Prep.
The Garnet Valley offense proved its lethalness early in the game. The Jaguars raced out to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter before leading 9-5 at halftime. Syracuse commit and junior midfielder Jacob Buttermore powered three goals past Haven keeper Will Brake while assisting on two more.
“We’ve dropped a few one-goal games that we shouldn’t have,” Urso said. “The biggest one to Malvern Prep, we had them by three with four minutes to go and somehow found a way to cough it up. That’s stuck with us, but you see the energy they’re playing with. They feel like they can beat anybody. Going into the playoffs, that’s how you have to feel.”
The Jaguars will look to improve their seeding for the District 1 playoffs against a struggling Abington team on Friday. Strath Haven, meanwhile, will host Episcopal Academy on Saturday to conclude its regular season.
Garnet Valley 15, Strath Haven 14, OT
GV 6-3-3-2-1- 15
SH 3-2-5-4-0- 14
Ryan Manbeck 3gm 1a
Jacob Buttermore 3g, 2a
Matt Moore 5g, 3a
Danny Ferreri 1g
Timmy Bradley 2g, 1a
Ty Moschello 1g
Michael Bonaddio 18 saves
Rei Lopez 20 of 32 FO
Will Huestis 7g
Jeffrey Conner 1g, 1a
Tyler Fink 2g, 1a
Sam Mutz 2g, 2a
Hunter Mazur 1g
Jake Ross 1a
Wil Bozentka 1g
Will Brake 8 saves