Marple Newtown sticks with it in victory

MARPLE — The scorer’s table at Marple Newtown High was getting crowded Thursday. Not with scorekeepers, but lacrosse sticks.

There were two illegal sticks on the table, both belonging to the Tigers, and for much of the game they symbolized the uphill climb the players forced on themselves. The resulting man-up situations nullified one Marple goal and helped Methacton net three goals.

Unfazed, the Tigers bounced back from a two-goal deficit at the half and blanked their nonleague opponent the rest of the way to score one of their grittiest victories in Mike Miller’s tenure as coach.

T.J. Reiley burst in from behind the net with 2:26 left for the goal that gave the Tigers their first and only lead, 7-6, and Miller his first three-game winning streak.

“It’s unreal,’ said Reiley, who contributed two goals and two assists. “The feeling is unimaginable. We played hard all around — goalies, defense, everyone. We all played hard.’

The Tigers (4-2) trailed, 1-0, when Vince Ciavardelli burst up the gut and deposited a shot that made the scoreboard read 1-1. Warriors coach Nat Ryan asked for a stick check.

The officials followed Rule 1-6-2 of the National Federation of State High School Associations which states, “With the ball in the crosse, horizontal to the ground at the deepest point of the pocket, tip the crosse forward 90 degrees to ensure that the ball rolls out of top end of the head.’

Since the ball stuck in the pocket, the stick was disqualified, the goal disallowed and the Tigers were shorthanded for three minutes. It’s a non-releasable penalty meaning the offending team has to play down a man the entire penalty.

Moments later it was a 2-0 deficit, goalie Dylan Welsh and the Tiger defense on the wrong side of a shooting gallery.

Just when the Tigers seemed to have weathered the storm, the officiating crew checked the stick of Nick Ganguilio. It, too, was bad.

When the second stick penalty expired, the Warriors (3-3) had a 4-1 advantage.

“The illegal sticks really hurt us in the beginning,’ Tigers attack Tom Higgins said. “It cost us four goals. But our defense came on strong. It held them to zero goals in the second half and that gave the offense a chance to come through.’

Higgins scored with 8:19 left in the half to pull Marple within two goals but Connor Derrickson, who contributed two goals and two assists gave the Warriors a 5-2 advantage.

After another exchange of goals, Higgins tallied with 1:56 left before the intermission to cut the Methacton lead to 6-4.

Miller had the Tigers check their sticks at halftime.

“Obviously it hurt us, but our defense killed a lot of the penalties,’ Miller said. “We were like 10 minutes man-down in the game. Without those penalties it would have been a different story. I think it pumped up our defense a little bit. Certainly being down for that long you’ve really got to sum up the fortitude to do that and the defense really stepped up today.’

In the third quarter, Higgins’ screen helped free Reiley for the goal that cut the gap to 6-5, Christian Xitas assisting on the score. With 5.2 seconds left in the frame, Higgins scored on a rush, set up by Xitas to knot the score.

After Reiley’s goal gave the Tigers the lead for good, the Warriors threw everything left in their equipment bag. Welsh, who stopped eight shots, denied the last, hectic rush that ended with Ryan, the Warriors’ coach shouting at the officials for letting six seconds run off the clock.

It was the second straight year the Tigers rallied to defeat the Warriors.

“It was kind of a grudge match,’ Higgins said. “There’s a lot of, I guess you could say smack talk between teams. So it was kind of an emotional win for us. It was a big one. This team has potential.’

Miller, in his third year, vowed to put a lid on the illegal sticks while praising his team for its resiliency.

“I think it does wonders for our confidence to understand that we can come back from down below,’ Miller said. “Our defense played lights out and our offense is coming along really strong. We’re being unselfish. These two guys stepped up today huge. I’m just really proud of my team today.’


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