By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/11/17
Anthony Giuliani and Brett Baskin are a rarity in high school lacrosse, even more so at a perennial powerhouse at La Salle College High School.
You don’t often find players who can start all four years, let alone at a school that threatens for state championships on an annual basis. When the duo were freshmen, though, they might have come into a game like Tuesday’s non league clash with Conestoga a little nervous and unsure of how to handle the big stage.
Sure, it’s early April, but a showdown between two of the top contenders for the first PIAA Class AAA championship has a way of getting to underclassmen. They grip their sticks a little tighter, force passes they shouldn’t, or maybe jump early on faceoffs, in Giuliani’s case.
When you’ve got four-year starters, though, you don’t worry about that kind of thing. The two were the stars that kickstarted the Explorers’ 12-5 rout of the Pioneers today.
Baskin, a Johns Hopkins signee, fired home five goals and set up Joey Taylor and Chris Hladczuk for goals. Giuliani, a Penn commit, was 16-for-19 at the faceoff X, including a 5-1 mark in the second quarter that enabled the Explorers to go on a 5-1 run that led to a 7-2 halftime bulge.
“When you’re going in as a freshman, it’s a lot more difficult,” Giuliani said. “But after experiencing it for three years, it kind of gets easier. You know what’s coming, you know the environment.
“I’ve played (at Conestoga’s Teamer Field) once or twice. You kind of get used to it and you know what to expect. We look at every game the same way, and that’s just to outwork our opponents. That’s pretty much what we did.”
Conestoga (7-1, tied with La Salle for No. 2 in the Phillylacrosse.com Rankings) came into the game riding high and averaging 14.7 goals per game, but Giuliani’s mastery at the X limited the Pioneers’ possessions. On the flip side, the Explorers (5-1) used precise cuts and unselfish play to get open and tee off on Scott MacMillan, who was still stout enough to make 11 saves. Baskin scored twice and Hladczuk factored on three goals in that 5-1 second quarter.
“Defensively, we didn’t do a good job,” Conestoga defensive midfielder Peyton Jones said. “A lot of guys were ball-watching. They did a good job of swinging the ball around, finding guys open.”
At the heart of it was Baskin. A smaller, shiftier attackman, the future Blue Jay won’t overpower defensemen, but he’s lethal in his off-ball cuts and he’s got a keen eye for finding open teammates. He’s surrounded by a balanced group that also features the likes of Hladczuk (five points), Brendan Meagher (three points) and Matt Clibanoff (three points), but there’s no doubt that Baskin is the ringleader.
“I think I’ve just had more responsibility as I’ve gotten older through the years,” Baskin said. “The coaches trusted me more as I’ve gotten older and I was able to learn early on and it’s paying off.”
Hunter Gregory led the Pioneers with a pair of goals, while Henry Berg and Tommy Sopko posted matching one-goal, one-assist stat lines. The game was an ideal non league game for both teams as they aim to ready themselves for what should be a lengthy postseason run, with an eye on a rematch at West Chester East for the state title.
“Conestoga’s a great team and a great program and we know we’re going to see them down the road, so it was a good win for us,” Baskin said. “We just outworked them. That’s our goal every game: just outwork the opponent from the first whistle to the last and I think we did that.”
There wasn’t any doubt that they did.
La Salle (5-1) 2 5 3 2 — 12
Brett Baskin 5g, 2a
Chris Hladczuk 2g, 3a
Brendan Meagher 2g, 1a
Matt Clibanoff 2g, 1a
Ethan LaMond 1a
Joey Taylor 1g, 1a
Anthony Giuliani 16-for-19 faceoffs
Mike Clibanoff 11 saves
Conestoga (7-1) 1 1 2 1 — 5
Hunter Gregory 2g
Henry Berg 1g, 1a
]Tommy Sopko 1g, 1a
Nick Braendel 1g
Scott MacMillan 11 saves