Avon Grove thwarted in OT by CB East in District 1 second round

LONDON GROVE — Kudos to the PIAA District 1 Boys Lacrosse Seeding Committee. Thursday’s second round playoff clash between No. 8 Avon Grove and No. 9 Central Buck East could not have been more evenly matched.

In all, there were six ties and five lead changes, but that’s hardly any consolation to the banged up Red Devils, who saw their season come to an end after dropping a tough to swallow 12-11 overtime decision to the visiting Patriots.

“I was very proud of our guys for their effort tonight,’ said Avon Grove head coach Eric Jackson. “They played with heart the whole game.

“We battled a lot of adversity this year. The team did a nice job all season long adapting, being flexible and filling different roles. Different guys always seemed to step up.’

The Devils finish with a 13-7 overall record, but their season came within an inch of continuing. Trailing by four goals in the fourth quarter, Avon Grove staged a furious comeback, and capped it off with a dramatic equalizer by senior Jake Pousson with a mere 12 seconds left in regulation.

“We played our heart out in that fourth quarter because we knew it was the last time we were going to play together on this field,’ said Pousson, who led the team with three goals.

In the sudden death OT, the Devils won the draw and came within a whisker of winning it on a shot by Doug Jones that ringed off the crossbar. Avon Grove retained possession, but turned it over after a timeout, and C.B. East’s Ryan Brown ended it with a transition goal with 55 seconds on the clock.

“I thought we did a nice job creating some offense early in the overtime, but we were getting a little tired so we called a timeout,’ Jackson explained. “I don’t think we came out as aggressive as we would have liked after the timeout, but we still had an opportunity.’

This was actually the second meeting between these two. The first, on April 11, ended in an 8-7 Pats victory in double overtime. And for the rematch, Avon Grove starters Steven Cyron and Nick Cardile were scratched due to injuries.

“It was very evenly matched out there,’ Pousson said.

“We were more banged up (Thursday) than the first time we played, but we knew it was going to be a close one again,’ Jackson added.

Somehow, the Devils found a way to overcome surrendering six straight second half goals. When C.B. East (17-2 overall) ended the surge by scoring the first two goals of the final period to make it 11-7 with just over 10 minutes on the clock, the situation looked bleak for the home team.

But that’s when Avon Grove promptly scored three in a row — from Bryce Reid, Jones and P.J. Rafferty — in a frenzied three-minute span to slice the deficit to one, 11-10, with just over seven minutes remaining.

With momentum on their side but time running down, the Devils finally tied it when Pousson scored on an unassisted blast with a dozen seconds remaining.

“To some degree, that’s why we all love this sport,’ Jackson said. “It’s a game of momentum and the guys refused to quit. They didn’t want to not be together (today) and that really provided the motivation when we needed to pick up the intensity.

“I think we had their goalie a little rattled, and he’s a great one. With the game on the line, Jake did a nice job of putting in the back of the net for us.’

Difficulties with draw controls helped put Avon Grove on the defensive in the early going, and the Patriots inched ahead 4-3 early in the second quarter. But the Red Devils made some adjustments, dominated possession time for the next 11 minutes, and thanks to goals by Pousson and Jones in the final three minutes of the first half, Avon Grove was able to take a 6-4 advantage into the intermission.

A man-up goal by Pousson put the Devils ahead by two early in the third, but C.B. East regained the lead by reeling off four consecutive goals in two-and-a-half minutes to make it 9-7 heading into the final period.

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