EAST ROCKHILL >> The Pennridge boys lacrosse team couldn’t have penned a much better script to its regular-season finale.
The Rams turned in one of their most complete games of the season, excelling in every area and gave their seniors a fitting sendoff in a win over a conference rival that had important district playoff implications. Whether it was bruising defense, unselfish offense or an efficient faceoff unit, the Rams got it done all over the field.
At the end of the night, the Rams left Helman Field with a 15-7 win over Central Bucks South and put themselves in a good spot heading into next week’s District 1 playoffs.
“We had a nice practice last night and we came out here with the intention to end it early and bury them real quick,” Rams senior midfielder and faceoff man PJ Matkowski said. “We were all here early, we got ourselves into that mindset and I think it helped.”
Pennridge’s PJ Matkowski battles Central Bucks South’s Matt Stoll for a loose ball during their game on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)
Pennridge (12-6, 7-2 Suburban One League National) ended up with a 12-9 edge in faceoffs, but the number was pretty skewed toward the Rams through the first three quarters and it fueled a hot start by an offense eager to move the ball. Of the nine goals Pennridge scored in the first half, seven were assisted and the Rams ended up with helpers on 11 of their 15 tallies.
The two teams entered play with nearly equal records and almost next to each other in the district standings. CB South (10-6, 5-4) was the No. 9 seed prior to first faceoff while the Rams were No. 11, but Pennridge coach JP Banks said he thinks the win will likely lock his team into that No. 9 spot.
As of Wednesday night, the Rams had moved up to No. 9 while the Titans fell to No. 12 in the Class 3A power rankings, meaning Pennridge would avoid a potential second-round meeting with state power Conestoga.
“We came out and really played a complete game,” Banks said. “Offensively, we were strong in transition and kept getting that one extra look, defensively I thought we were really, really tough and it helps a lot when PJ Matkowski is dominating the X.”
The star of the show early for Pennridge was junior attackman Kevin Britner, who netted a natural hat-trick in about 90 seconds in the first quarter and bagged five goals in the first half. Rams senior goalie Tristan Banks said Britner had been struggling a bit the past few games but was amped to see the junior break his slump in such emphatic fashion.
Britner’s three straight goals and the first of Nick Fanelli’s four goals gave the Rams a 5-1 lead late in the first quarter. The Titans cut the lead down to 5-3 early in the second quarter but the Rams were able to regain momentum by continuing to win faceoffs and with the effort of their defensive unit.
After Dylan Grosso’s goal with 11:36 left in the first half, the Titans didn’t score again until 11:05 remained in the fourth quarter.
“Positioning-wise, they were all over South’s guys, we had a couple mistakes but that happens,” Tristan Banks said. “Brandon (Howell) handled his guys, Andy Kelly was solid, Johnnie (Banks) handled himself well, threw a couple checks that landed and Danny Hart, honestly, he’s been having the greatest season I’ve ever seen him play.”
Pennridge goalie Tristan Banks positions himself for Central Bucks Souths Dylan Grossos shot during their game on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)
Four different players netted at least one goal in the second half for Pennridge. Ryan Garner had two goals and two assists, Jack Garner netted two scores and assisted four more while Logan Laszasz had a score and three helpers.
“We came out playing fast and hard and I think it threw them off a little bit,” Matkowski said. “We had a couple of good looks across the field. It looked they weren’t ready for that.”
While Pennridge has been solid for most of the season, the Rams have also had a couple off moments that cost them. JP Banks said four of their losses were by a combined five goals and the team, which has a large core of juniors and sophomores in key roles, hasn’t closed out some games well.
On Wednesday, the Rams were aggressive and tough on ground balls which are always a deciding factor in games and they were able to take care of the details. The next step is finding a way to translate Wednesday’s performance into the postseason.
Luckily for Pennridge, many of the players were on the field last season when they outlasted Unionville in a first-round classic then were bounced by Conestoga in the second round. Tristan Banks, who made a key stop in that Unionville win, said that experience is invaluable but also didn’t want to call Wednesday’s victory the ceiling on what this group can do.
“We played our hearts out in both games last year,” Tristan Banks said. “If we face that type of situation again, we know we can attack it with our full potential.”
PENNRIDGE 15, CENTRAL BUCKS SOUTH 7
CENTRAL BUCKS SOUTH 2 1 0 4 – 7
PENNRIDGE 5 4 2 4 – 15