Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/8/10
SHILLINGTON – Conestoga scored two goals in the final 12 seconds of the second period to erase a 3-2 deficit and then dominated the second half in a 13-4 victory today over pesky Manheim Township in the semifinals of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) boys’ lacrosse tournament at Gov. Mifflin High.
The win propels the District 1 champion Pioneers (23-2) into the PIAA finals for the second straight year. They play the winner of tonight’s semifinal between defending PIAA champion La Salle and Seneca Valley of District 7 on Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium at 2 p.m.
Conestoga, the clear favorite, was trailing, 3-2, and struggling for offense until Jason Klunder scored with 12 seconds left in the half and Tanner Scott followed by scooping up the groundball off the ensuing face-off and racing down before beating Devin O’Grady with 3.9 seconds left.
The two goals left the Blue Streaks (22-6) – who had been frustrating the Pioneers all day with a zone defense and timely scoring – shocked heading into the half. When the teams came out for the third period, Conestoga assumed complete control.
Led by All-American face-off specialist Ryan Buttenbaum (won 15 of 17 draws), the floodgates opened for the Pioneers. They scored six goals in 10:04 to seize a 10-4 lead and added three more to open the fourth period until Manheim Township could catch its breath.
Senior attackman Matt Smith led the barrage with three goals while Scott and middie Billy Flatley added two apiece.
“I have to credit both my assistant coaches,” said Conestoga coach Brian Samson. “Brody Bush, on the offensive end, tweeked something we already had in place and made it easy enough for the kids to understand.
“They went out there and executed. And then (assistant) Craig Gratton gets the emotions out of these kids and he really fired them up with a great halftime speech. The team came out fired up; we turned the ball over a bunch even in the third quarter, but our ability to ride and get the ball back was outstanding and gave us the chance to win.”
Early on, though, the story was different. The Blue Streaks, who also reached the state semifinal last year and went to the finals of the Keystone Cup tourney two years ago, employed a well-planned zone and were able to slow the game down to neutralize the speedy and deep Pioneers.
The strategy worked to perfection as Conestoga had a number of turnovers and spent much of the time with man-down situations. If not for two brilliant saves in the closing minutes of the first half, Manheim Township could easily have taken a 5-2 lead.
“I think the real key is to be patient on offense,” said Scott. “We haven’t seen that kind of zone before and that was the best we’ve ever seen. I think we had to be patient and pick our passes and make good shots. It paid off in the second half. Coach Brody Bush made adjustments and it worked.”
But in the third period, the Pioneers dominated possession as the Blue Streaks failed to have possession of the ball in the box even once. Manheim Township also went 0-for-7 in clears in the third period.
“The two goals at the end of the half were disappointing,” Manheim Township coach Rich Lefever said. “But the 0-for-7 on clears in the third was ridiculous. When you give a team that is that good more touches it’s not good.”
Lefever, though, was satisfied that his team continued to gain respect. Manheim Township has reached the state semifinals each year in the PIAA after advancing to the state finals two years ago.
“We did a good job, for the most part, in the first two quarters,” he said. “We exchanged blows with them on defense and we were patient and got good shots on offense.”
Conestoga 13, Manheim Township 4
Conestoga 2-2-6-3- 13
Mnaheim Twp – 1-2-0-1 – 4
Matt Smith 3g, 1a
Tanner Scott 2g, 1a
Billy Flatley 2g
Austin Rogusky 1g
Jason Klunder 1g, 1a
Jeff Chu 1g, 1a
Buttenbaum Ryan 1g
Connor Frisina 1g
Brian Dailey 1a
Peter Zonino 6 saves
John Lopes 1 saves
Quint Miller 2g
Mark Stratton 1a
Rob Wertz 1g
Kevin Estabrook 1a
Alex Bradbury 1g
Devin O’Grady 7 saves
The Lancaster Intelligencer contributed to this article
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