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PIAA 2A boys: Mars downs Marple Newtown, becomes first team from District 7 to win state gold

Sunday, 12th June 2022

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School  
 

By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/11/22

Mars High School is only 300 miles away from Philadelphia, but until recently it seemed the Western region of Pennsylvania was in outer space when it came to challenging for a state title.

But on Saturday Mars Area HS broke through the barrier, defeating Marple Newtown, 9-6, to claim the PIAA 2A boys’ championship at West Chester East.

The Fightin’ Planets (23-1) used a 5-0 run to break open a 2-2 game and held off a spirited Tiger comeback attempt to become the first team from District 7 to win a PIAA lacrosse crown – boys’ or girls – since the PIAA began sanctioning the sport in 2009 (regional organizations had held state championships from 2000-2007 or crowned champions since as early as 1965 and all winners came from the Philly region).

Mars had reached the 2A finals last year at WC East – falling to Allentown Central Catholic, 14-5, with a young squad that returned many key starters. Similarly, Marple Newtown (20-5), the District 1 champion, had a roster with just seven seniors and relied heavily on underclassmen.

But the story Saturday came from the West.

PIAA 2A champion Mars

“Words can’t even describe how this feels, it’s great to be here with all my guys doing what we love,” said Mars junior goalie Jonathan Grieco, who had 11 saves and a key stop in the final minute to preserve a 2-goal lead. “We’ve been thinking about making history as the team in the west to finally hang with Philly teams in District 1.

“We never had the looks, so we wanted to do this for everyone in the west.”

The Planets took a 7-2 lead on Austin Cote’s third goal with 8:02 left in the third quarter, but Marple Newtown drew to within 7-5 late in the period on a goal by Charlie Box with 5.6 seconds left. Jack Durham (2G) scored with 6:51 to make it 8-5, but Marple Newtown freshman Ryan Keating tallied his third of the half to cut the deficit to 8-6 with 2:39 left.

The Tigers looked to pull within a goal in the last minute, but Grieco made a brilliant leaping save on Joey Yukenevitch and Wesley Scurci’s goal with 29.3 seconds left clinched it.

“I’m just another piece of the puzzle,” Greco said “When the team needed us, we called on the team. When they needed me, I did what I had to do.”

“It’s awesome to represent Western Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh area,” said Mars senior defenseman Quinn Fuller, a Jacksonville signee. “We’ve always been the underdog coming here in the state playoffs. Last year when we lost we were disappointed, but we had one thing on our minds – coming here and winning the state title.”

Enzo Grieco added two goals for Mars and Kyle McEwen scored once.

Box (2G, 1A), headed for Cornell, said his team showed the grit that typified a memorable season. Marple Newtown had never reached the state tourney and won its first District 1 crown in 2022.

“I’m so proud,” he said. “Never once did we ever give up, we kept battling every single game throughout the season. Nobody expected us to be here and I think we really shocked a lot of people on this run and I think we set the standard for Marple Newtown lacrosse for years to come.”

Box said he knew the Tigers could contend for a 2A crown after holding its own against elite 3A teams in the Central League.

Marple Newtown’s Charlie Box (2) dives for a loose ball in Saturday’s contest (Photo by Rick Martin)

“I think we hung with Conestoga and – although the score didn’t show it in the Radnor game – we played them tough, too. We also had a big win over Penncrest. Throughout the year we knew we could go on a run and our focus was just on getting better each game.”

Tigers coach Kevin Merchant was proud of his team’s resilience

“It’s the mentality we have as a team what we installed in the off season; it’s tough nose and hard work,” he said. “There is no give up in Marple Newtown lacrosse.

“I think what the COVID year last year and this year did was set the culture here. These guys understand where they can be and what it takes to get there and I think we grow from there.”

Mars 9, Marple Newtown 6
Marple Newtown 2-0-3-1- 6
Mars 2-4-1-2 – 9

Marple Newtown
Charlie Box 2g, 1a
Ryan Keating 3g
Brian Box 1a
Damien Bogsch 1g
Jack Welsh 8 saves

Mars
Austin Cote 3g
Quinn Fuller 1a
Wesley Scurci 1g
Kyle McEwen 1g
Jack Dunham 2g
Enzo Grieco 2g
Jonathan Grieco 11 saves

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