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Top Stories of 2008…No. 11 – La Salle edged Haverford School in double-overtime, semifinal classic

Sunday, 11th January 2009

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School  

By Chris Goldberg &
Ben Skalina, Posted 1/11/09

It has, by most in attendance, been called one of the most exciting and dramatic games in the history of Philadelphia scholastic boys’ lacrosse.

It had everything you could ask for: two great teams vying for a spot in the championship finals, great goaltending, great individual plays, a game-tying goal in the final second of regulation and one final, still-hard-to-believe game-winning goal at the second OT buzzer that has been viewed countless times on You Tube.

The result was an unforgettable, 7-6 triumph by La Salle over Haverford School in the semifinals of the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (EPSLA) playoffs. What made the game even bigger was that the Explorers went on to defeat Malvern Prep, 4-3, for the coveted honor of being the final EPSLA champion.

La Salle (31-2) then toppled ManheimTownship, 7-5, to claim the Keystone Cup trophy as the Pennsylvania state champion and finished first in the nation, according to Lacrosse Magazine’s end-of-the-season poll.

The game-winner in this semifinal was delivered by All-American midfielderConrad Ridgway, who snared a desperation toss to the crease area by Randy Forster. Ridgway elevated his body, and quick-sticked the ball past Haverford All-American goalie Dan Wigrizer with 0.1 showing on the clock.

“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.”

The Explorers sent the game into overtime when All-American Peter Schwartzscored with 0.8 seconds left in regulation.

“Peter is a gamer, and he went and got us something big tonight,” La Salle coach Bill Leahy said.

“We expected a one-goal game either way,” Leahy added. “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 a third 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, another All-American, 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 freshmanCarl 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.

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 goalie Niko Amato, yet another All-American who put on a show to match Wigrizer, 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.

“The Haverford game was great,’ Amato said. “What else could you ask for? There were a bunch of lead changes, excitement, goals, saves…I thought the game had it all. I remember being down 4-2 and trying to motivate our defense to keep our heads in it. We never really had to come from behind too much; we were always up.
“I kept on motivating them because I knew the offense would come through. Then once they did, it was pure adrenaline in the overtime working for us. We got some key stops on ‘D’ and our offense put it in the back of the net.”

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