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Bishop Shanahan closes out first PIAA championship, downing Strath Haven, 13-5, in AA final

Saturday, 9th June 2018

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 6/9/18

Bishop Shanahan outscored Strath Haven, 13-1, in the final three periods to overcome a slow start as the Eagles blitzed the Panthers, 13-5, Saturday to win their first PIAA lacrosse championship in the Class AA final at West Chester East.

Bishop Shanahan celebrates the PIAA Class AA title

Gabe Goforth led a balanced attack with four goals while Dan Bathon, Bryan Rafferty and Connor Heisman each scored twice as the Eagles tallied the game’s final nine goals.

Bishop Shanahan, the District 1 champion, finished 22-1, winning its final 19 games and not allowing any team to score more than seven goals.

Strath Haven (19-6) seized the 4-0 lead in the first period on two goals by Liam Carney, Jeff Conner’s 96th of the year and one by Ethan Belville. The Eagles tied it in the second period on two by Bathon and one each by Goforth and Heisman before Chris Rosini gave the Panthers a 5-4 lead at halftime.

But Andrew Smyth tied it early in the third period and the Eagles completely dominated the rest of the game. Goforth put Shanahan ahead for the first time and long pole Thomas Ford went the distance for a 7-5 lead.

“Ever since I got to this program, he (coach Jon Heisman) has challenged us to win a state championship and we fell short each year,” said Eagle junior LSM standout Connor Whalen. “But this year the seniors took it upon themselves to lead us to the championship and we really followed behind the.

“I can’t believe this is happening. It feels unreal. They scored four goals in a row and we said, defense starts with us. We kept playing and didn’t look behind us.”

Connor Whelan

Ford, a leader on defense, said winning the title is a dream he never dared to dream. “I never dreamed about winning the state championship. We played together for four years, and a lot of us in the summer, and and that helps with chemistry. The young guys definitely knew what we wanted and they bought into it.”

Smyth (one goal, two assists) said the Eagles did not panic after falling behind.

“Our shots weren’t falling, they (the Pathers) were getting the 50-50 balls we were a little flat, but we turned it up and the shots started hitting and we battled back,” he said. “That’s our confidence and belief in each other and how much we love to play.

“It’s going to be hard waking up and not going to practice. It’s been a long four years of non stop working out and getting better for this moment. To finally fulfill the dream is very satisfying.”

“We had a couple bad breaks and a couple bounces didn’t go our way, but they didn’t falter,” added Heisman. “We said, ‘Look, stick with the game-plan.’ They understand.

“We have been dynamo in the second half this year. They are in shape and the kids believe in themselves; it’s so awesome.”

Bathon’s contribution was typical of the closeness of the seniors. He tore his ACL 8 months ago during the football season, but came back on May 5 and became a major contributor.

“That’s the type of team we are,” he said of the comeback. “I am so blessed to be able to come back and play. Since I came back all I noticed is the tightness of the senior class. This senior class is so close. Going through this with them for four years, there is no better way to end this.”

Thomas Ford

Strath Haven coach Jef Hewlings felt that Shanahan’s depth and balance was the key.

“The wheels didn’t fall off, their their depth and athleticism showed,” he said. “They did a nice job and made adjustments they needed to make to slow us down.

“I am proud of my kids. There were a lot of ways and times we could have packed it in. The senior leadership that kept this team going through to the the last day of the season is something I will never forget.”

Conner, A US Lacrosse and Under Armour All-American who has established himself as one of the top players in the state the past few years, said he also will not forget what his team accomplished.

“Right now it hurts, but this is a great group of kids,” he said. “What we accomplished over the four years and this year … It’s unlucky, but they were the better team. Still, I am proud of everything we accomplished and I wouldn’t want any other group of guys. Coming to practice each day for 2 hours, I wouldn’t trade that. I wish there was still more time to play with them.”

Bishop Shanahan 13, Strath Haven 5
Strath Haven 4-1-0-0- 5
Bishop Shanahan 0-4-3-6- 13

Strath Haven
Jeff Conner 1g, 2a
Liam Carney 2g
Chris Rosini 1g
Ethan Belville 1g
Will Brake 5 saves
Vincey Palermo 4 saves

Bishop Shanahan
Gabe Goforth 4g
Connor Heisman 2g
Bryan Rafferty 2g
Andrew Smyth 1g, 2a
Tyler Kingsbury 1a, 10/21 Faceoffs
Kyle Pollick 1a
Kyle Gucwa 1g, 1a
Thomas Ford 1g
Dan Bathon 2g
Nick Pezone 6 saves

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