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EPSLA semifinals: Buzzer-beaters lift La Salle past Haverford School, 7-6

Saturday, 31st May 2008

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School  

By Ben Skalina, posted 5/31/08

La Salle saw its season come down to tenths of seconds on Friday night at Garnet Valley.

The Explorers needed Peter Schwartz’s tally with 0.8 seconds left on the clock to force overtime against a gutsy Haverford School team that thought it had the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (EPSLA) semifinal game won.

“Peter is a gamer, and he went and got us something big tonight,” La Salle coach Bill Leahy said of his midfielder’s efforts.

Then, in the second extra session, Randy Forster’s desperation pass to the crease off of a restart with two seconds left found a cutting Conrad Ridgway, who elevated and quick-sticked the ball past Haverford goalie Dan Wigrizer with 0.1 showing on the clock to win it, 7-6.

The stunning victory moved the second-seeded Explorers (29-2) into Tuesday’s EPSLA championship game (7:30 p.m.) against top-seeded Malvern Prep at Garnet Valley.

“Randy made a beautiful feed to the crease, I credit that goal completely to him,” Ridgway said. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I cut to the crease hoping something would happen and it worked out.”

For his part, Leahy always felt the game would be close.

“We expected a one-goal game either way,” Leahy said. “Both teams had their chances, and I thought [Wigrizer] made some unbelievable saves for Haverford.”

A disappointed Haverford coach John Nostrant had thought the game was going to another overtime period.

“I was already looking to the third overtime,” he said. “I didn’t think they could score with two seconds left, but they did a good job of jamming it in there.”

Nostrant also agreed with Leahy on his team’s missed opportunities.

“They finished their chances and we didn’t,” Nostrant said. “The effort was there, the heart was there, the hustle was there, it just didn’t happen. To be in the Final Four was great, but it just didn’t happen for us this year.”

The action that transpired before Schwartz and Ridgway’s heroics was the stuff of a Philadelphia lacrosse classic.

Rory O’Connor (four goals) got Haverford going early in the first quarter when he converted a Craig Owen assist two and a half minutes in. Matt Lynch (two goals) answered for La Salle when he picked up a rebound from a Schwartz just 45 seconds later.

The tie didn’t last long before Ben Bourke put the third-seeded Fords (17-7) in front with six minutes and one second left in the quarter on a nice move from behind the net.

In the second frame, O’Connor kept on scoring for Haverford.

First, Ben Rossman started a fast break for Haverford with a great check and groundball that ended with Owen finding O’Connor for a 3-1 lead. O’Connor added to the lead when freshman Carl Walrath spotted him on the crease with 4 minutes and 20 seconds left in the half, but the Fords failed to score for the next 21 minutes and the Explorers clawed their way back into the game.

Schwartz’s first goal came with 54.4 seconds left in the half, and claimed some momentum back for La Salle as they went to the break down, 4-2.

The third quarter saw the Explorers convert their chances and hold off a prolonged Haverford offensive to tie the game at 4.

Randy Forster scored a mere 25 seconds after the half faced off, and then he found Lynch on the crease five minutes later to even things up.

The latter portion of the third quarter saw Haverford go on the offensive with nine shots and a short two-man advantage. But Niko Amato made four of his 12 saves during the period to keep the Fords at bay.

In the final quarter, both teams looked for the final edge. Schwartz added to the La Salle surge early in the frame when he lost his man with a rocker move and scored for a 5-4 advantage.

O’Connor had the answers for Haverford, though. He first dished to Joe O’Rourke to knot the game at 5-5 apiece before providing what was very nearly the final margin with 6:50 to play on an outside rip.

Wigrizer finished with seven saves for the Fords, who had defeated the Explorers, 3-2, early in the year.

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