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North Penn surges past Wilson, captures second straight state title

North Penn celebrates winning the boys state water polo championship on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (James Beaver/For Digital First Media
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TOWAMENCIN >> They were devastating on the power play and driven by a desire to win a state title in front of their home fans.

And by the second quarter Saturday night, the North Penn Knights brought a powerful surge that rival Wilson simply could not answer.

The Bulldogs had lost their bite.

“The second quarter was huge,” North Penn’s A.J. Patterson said. “We knew that we needed to stop their drives and help out, help our teammates out, because (Wilson) loves to swim. But so do we.

“We knew we needed to counter the heck out of them,” a smiling Patterson said, “and put the ball in the net.”

That, the Knights did.

North Penn’s Sean Faikish (6) defends a shot against Wilson’s Donovan Curran (17) in the state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (James Beaver/For Digital First Media)

North Penn’s 5-1 burst in the second quarter provided a 7-3 lead, which would develop into a decisive 14-9 victory over Wilson, earning the Knights their second consecutive state crown.

“We just came together as a team,” Sean Faikish said. “We knew it was gonna be a tough challenge. We knew it was our home turf — or home pool — so we had to come out firing and that’s what we did. We jumped out on top, stuck together as a team, played defense and won the game.”

Faikish and Patterson each scored five goals and each were First Team All-State selections. They helped power the Knights to back-to-back titles, the first time the NP boys pulled off that feat since 2006-07.

“The past couple weeks, we started playing more as a unit,” said North Penn coach Jason Grubb, who directed both the boys and girls to state titles for the second year in a row. “It was a brand-new team with only a couple players coming back from last year.

“So everyone had to get used to each other, gell with each other, figure out where they’re gonna be. And you could just see them morph, and it was a great way to finish.”

Wilson goalie Cameron Cavanaugh (1) watches the ball go in the net after North Penn’s A.J. Patterson (12) sends another shot in the net in the state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (James Beaver/For Digital First Media)

Grand Finale

Patterson and Faikish each scored in the first quarter as the two teams battled to a 2-2 tie.

And then the Knight offense got going.

Scores came from Chris Killion, Faikish and Patterson as North Penn’s attack began to take control.

“They were attacking ball side very well, getting themselves in the lanes, and anyone that was getting in the middle of the pool was making good turns,” Grubb said.

“And our power play has been killer — all weekend, and that was a big help for us.”

North Penn’s AJ Patterson (12) readies a shot over Wilson defender Max Valeriano (20) in the state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (James Beaver/For Digital First Media)

 

North Penn reached the State Final by virtue of its quarterfinal win over Exeter and its semifinal victory over North Allegheny. In that win over North Allegheny, a defensive-minded 5-4 decision, goalie Valor Jamieson again stood out, helping to provide an edge.

North Penn coaches and players refer to him as “our Nick Foles,” a former backup who filled a major role on the way to a championship.

“We lost our starting goalie (Evan Mancini) the week before the Erie Challenge,” Faikish said. “But our backup goalie stepped up, and he’s been playing like a varsity-level goalie the entire year.

“Without him, and without all of our seniors — our guidance, we wouldn’t be where we are now. And the coaching staff has been great.”

And then there were the fans, who packed the Rick Carroll Natatorium and provided the Knights plenty of boisterous encouragement.

North Penn fans erupt after Sean Faikish puts another goal in against Wilson in the state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (James Beaver/For Digital First Media)

“They always know to bring it,” Patterson said. “They always know how to get loud for us. They’re always there to support us.”

“It’s been a long year,” Grubb said of the road to the title, “and an excellent way to end it.”

The North Penn girls captured their fifth state title in a row last weekend and now the boys are repeat champions as well. Greyson Campbell and Carter Mitchell added to the second-half festivities for NP, contributing a goal each.

“It’s been a great couple years of the girls and boys,” Grubb said. “It’s been a testament to the kids and how hard they work and how much work they do put in.”

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