By Teddy Bailey (@TheTeddyBailey)
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/8/16
Springfield-Delco scored the game’s final five goals and goalie James Spence made 14 saves to spark an 8-5 win tonight over Strath Haven in the PIAA boys’ lacrosse semifinals at Penncrest.
The Cougars (19-7, ranked No. 4 by Phillylacrosse.com) advance to their first PIAA title game Saturday against District 12 champion La Salle at West Chester East (2:30 p.m.). Strath Haven (No. 5) closes at 19-7.
“The last time we went to the state championship, I think was 1992 – it was a while ago,” Spence said. “We got here last year and lost (in the state semifinals). I’ve been working all my life for this. I’ve always wanted to make this and now it’s finally a dream come true.”
Springfield-Delco is hoping to clinch a third consecutive title for the Central League (Penncrest 2014, Radnor 2015).
The Panthers led, 5-3, after scoring four unanswered goals late in the first half and early in the third period. But Nick Martin tipped in a pass from Kyle Long with under 2 minutes to play in the third period and Jack Spence tied it early in the fourth quarter.
Springfield-Delco took the lead, 6-5, just 63 seconds later when Matin scored from Mike Vent. Spence made several key saves during the run and then made a brilliant clear to set up the next goal by Vent with just under five minutes to play. Mike Gerzabek then made it 8-5 about 15 seconds later.
“We were struggling on groundballs,” Spence said. “I had to run out and get it. I was just looking for the next pass, not trying to do anything special. I had to beat a couple guys and found Mike Vent wide open, it turned out to be a great play.”
“He’s unbelievable,” Springfield-Delco head coach Tom Lemieux said of Spence. “It’s almost become routine to see him out there, and it shouldn’t be because he’s so special. He’s the best goalie around, there’s no one I’d rather have in there than him.”
Gerzabek had given the Cougars a 1-0 lead off a Kyle Long (one goal, three assists) feed, but Jack Borbee fed Sam Mutz for the tying goal. Long gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead in the second period and then fed Joe DiBernardi for a 3-1 edge. But the Panthers tied it in the final 27 seconds of the half when Jake Ross made it 3-2 and Jeff Conner earned his 100th assist on a goal by long pole Noah Frantz.
Strath Haven went up, 4-3, immediately after the second-half faceoff when Hunter Mazur got one past Spence just 12 seconds in – giving the Panthers three goals in 39 seconds. Will Huestis then bounced on past Spence for the 5-3 lead with 5:47 left in the period – Strath Haven’s last goal of the game.
The Panthers, the No. 4 seed from District 1 and a Central League tri-champion, lose only six seniors and established themselves as an elite team.
“The credit goes to Springfield,” said Strath Haven coach Jef Hewlings, whose squad reached the PIAA tourney for the first time. “They played a great game tonight and deserve to play for the state championship. I told our guys how proud our staff is of them, and not to let tonight’s result define their season.
“Our seniors have made such a positive impact on our program and all these guys have put Strath Haven on the lacrosse map in PA – they had the best season in program history and I feel good that this year’s experience will fuel us as we continue to grow as a program.”
The Cougars started the year 1-5 – since they are 17-2.
“Last year we had a rough start as well,” Spence said. “We proved that we could be a great team and won the district championship. This year I had no doubt, I knew we would come together as a team.”
Springfield-Delco 8, Strath Haven 5
Springfield-Delco 1-2-1-4- 8
Strath Haven 1-2-2-0- 5
Mike Gerzabek 2g
Mike Vent 1g, 1a
Kyle Long 1g, 3a
Nick Martin 2g
Joe DeBernardi 1g
Jack Spence 1g
James Spence 14 saves
Jake Ross 1g
Noah Frantz 1g
Hunter Mazur 1g
Jeff Conner 1a
Jack Borbee 1a
Sam Mutz 1g
Will Huestis 1g
Will Brake 5 saves