WORCESTER >> With every stoppage, ever clear of the ball from the La Salle zone, the wave built on the Central Bucks East sideline.
The Patriots dared to believe — in that don’t-say-it-too-loud kind of way — that they could pull a monstrous upset over District 12 champion La Salle Saturday. And one clutch goal, one gritty ground ball, one goalie save at a time, that confidence crescendoed.
“La Salle was by far the favorite,” defender Bryan McIntosh admitted. “Everyone looked down on us. We were like, ‘you know what boys, they have everything to lose, we have nothing to lose. Let’s shock the world. We’ve made it this far. Let’s bring it to them.’”
They brought it, and then some, the fourth-place team from District 1 ousting the presumptive PIAA favorites, 8-6, in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Methacton High School.
Ryan Brown recorded a second-half hat trick to pave the way, but the Patriots’ domination was thorough, even if it may have sounded unlikely to outside observers beforehand.
The vital matchup was McIntosh’s total shackling of the Explorers’ Brett Baskin, the focal point of their attack. Baskin scored once and assisted on one of Chris Hladczuk’s three tallies, but the Johns Hopkins commit had a fraction of his customary impact. And with his contributions, also out the window went the offensive balance and continuity for which La Salle (21-2) is renowned.
“I just think we weren’t moving the ball through X,” Hladczuk said. “We weren’t playing unselfish lacrosse like we did all year. We just had trouble in all facets of the game. They just beat us in all facets — faceoffs, attack we didn’t play well, midfield, defense, it’s on all of us. I put it on our offense.”
“Their whole entire offense runs right through him,” McIntosh said. “He gets most of their dodges, most of their points. We watched film on them. I knew that I could run with him, so I was forcing him to his left the whole entire game and he couldn’t get anything. He had that one goal when I wasn’t on him, but other than that, he was shut down the whole time.
“It was huge that we did that because it controlled their whole offense and brought them down to another level because they’re an elite offense.”
C.B. East (18-5), which advances to the semis against Avon Grove, shut out La Salle in the second quarter, part of a 22-minute stretch without allowing a goal. That stinginess allowed East to reverse a 3-1 deficit to a 5-3 lead before Hladczuk broke the drought late in the third quarter.
Brown recorded a natural hat trick bridging into the fourth quarter, including a shot form 30 yards that La Salle goalie Michael Clibanoff made a mess of, bouncing off his chest and in with one second remaining in the third. Brant Bilingsley absorbed punishment near the cage with 8:31 to play, beating Clibanoff to stake the Patriots to an insurmountable 8-4 lead.
But the game pivoted with seven seconds left in the first half when Ryan Bullotta rifled home a low shot while falling. That tally brought life to a sleepy first 24 minutes and sent the Patriots into halftime tied at 3 … but with the decided edge in momentum and that surging self-belief.
“Before that it was pretty slow-going, then we got that one goal,” Bullotta said. “I didn’t think I had it, but I was on the ground, I ripped it. We had seven seconds left, they told me to fire, so I was going for it. And that really changed the momentum going into the second half I think.”
Bullotta added a goal at 7:50 of the third. Alec Bracken scored twice in the first half to keep the Patriots afloat.
The edge in attack may have been surprising, but it was hardly the only area of decisive victory for the Patriots. Mike Ott held his own with All-American faceoff man Anthony Giuliani, restricting the Penn signee to just 10 wins on 17 draws. Liam Rosenthal made 11 saves in goal, six in posting the second-quarter goose egg. The Patriots also played with championship poise: La Salle’s comeback was hampered by several infractions, including a two-minute, locked-in unsportsmanlike conduct call when Ethan LaMond took a run at a Patriot.
And as far as the confidence factor, that also showed a resounding edge for East.
“Everyone thought it was possible, but we’re an underdog team,” Bullotta said. “Anyone can bet against us, but we pulled through.”
Central Bucks East 8, La Salle 6
Central Bucks East 1 2 3 2 – 8
La Salle 3 0 1 2 – 6
Central Bucks East goals: Brown 3, Bracken 2, Bullotta 2, Billingsly.
La Salle goals: Hladczuk 3, Baskin, LaMond, Mochaitas.
Goalies: Rosenthal (CBE) 11 saves, Mi.Clibanoff (L) 6 saves.