CONCORD >> If you think defense wins championships, think about Garnet Valley.
Goalie Jason Rose pitched a shutout in the first half Thursday to spark the second-seeded Jaguars to a runaway 17-5 win over West Chester East in the second round of the District One 3A boys lacrosse playoffs.
The Jaguars (15-4) entertain Haverford, the 10th seed, Saturday at 2 p.m. The Jaguars rallied to beat the Fords earlier this season.
“We played sloppy early,” Jaguars coach Frank Urso said. “I think Jay Rose, who had an unbelievable first half, made us look a whole lot better than we were. They had some good looks at him and he made some nice stops. He shut them down. Once we started putting the ball in the net I think athletically we had a little bit of an advantage.”
Rose stopped nine shots before taking the rest of the night off. He exited with a 10-0 lead. Make no mistake, Rose got help from his defense.
Almost lost in the first quarter was the end-to-end play of senior defender Brandon Starr, who made three sprints all the way to his end line to re-route Vikings shooters and make life a little easier for Rose.
“We just wanted to make sure that we did our part on defense,” Starr said. “We wanted our offense to look up and say, ‘wow, our defense is stopping them; we’ve got to get them the momentum.’”
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) May 18, 2017
The momentum arrived when sophomore Hunter Baar scored twice in the last 23 seconds of the first quarter, and again early in the second quarter to put the Vikings in a 6-0 hole. The final tally proved to be the game-winner.
For one game, at least, Baar found his groove stepping in for Jaguars scoring star Denny Nealon, the four-year contributor who suffered a torn ACL just over a week ago.
“The coaches asked me to fill in when Denny got hurt,” said Baar, who scored three goals. “I was on first-line middie but now I’m on attack. I’m just trying to fill the role as best I can. Those are some big shoes to fill. The coaches did a good job of preparing me for it. I felt pretty good out there.”
The Vikings (11-9) got some pretty good goalie play of their own in the first half despite the lopsided score. Senior Kenny Pugh, who didn’t play the position until this, his senior year, prevented the scored from being 18-0 at the intermission with 11 strong saves.
One shot struck Pugh in … OK, let’s not go there. Lesser men would have given up the fight right there.
“I think that’s the mentality everybody’s had, to step up, to be the next man up if one goes down,” Pugh said. “It seems like everybody’s been ready to do that. My teammates have been with me every step of the way to help me.
“This wasn’t the night we wanted. Everybody went in with a lot of momentum coming off that win Tuesday. (The Jaguars are) good. They’re going to make a nice run, for sure.”
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) May 19, 2017
Urso liked what he saw when he emptied his bench, the substitutes keeping pace with the Vikings. A little more time, perhaps, to think about the weekend rematch with the Fords.
“They had us 7-2 at the half and we shut them out 6-0 in the second half and won it 8-7,” Urso said of the first Haverford game. “It was a nice win for us.”
Vikings coach Jim Schorn knows what it’s like to be on the wrong end of one of those goose eggs.
“It’s a great team,” Schorn said of Garnet Valley. “Their goalie really stood out early on. And we created offense for them. We gave them their first goal when one of our defenseman picked up a ground ball and it slipped off his stick. Another time we cleared the ball right to them. Two of their first four goals were really given away by us. They capitalized on all of our mistakes. When you do that, when you have a team that that’s good, there’s little chance of getting back in it.”
Rose and Starr are right in the thick of that defensive effort.
Jaguars basketball fans remember the 6-2 Starr as guy who averaged 18 points per game to help the varsity win its first district playoff game in more than 15 years.
The Garnet Valley middle school ballers know Starr as the tall dude who encouraged them to stick with the game and find out for themselves what that victory felt like.
“I told them about the history and that if they stay with it, they’ll be part of the history, also,” Starr said.
The way the Jaguars play, no one would be surprised if Starr’s next pitch was to the middle school lacrosse players.