Old wounds open, cast La Salle in PCL title game

ASTON — All season long La Salle High lacrosse coach Bill Leahy watched while his team struggled with certain aspects of the game — primarily, winning draws, clearing the defensive zone and making key saves.

Wednesday evening, in the glow of the Philadelphia Catholic League championship game at Neumann University, Leahy was visited by those same three ghosts, and they weren’t any less frustrating.

In fact, they cost the Explorers their usual PCL championship as rival St. Joseph’s Prep emerged with a 12-10 victory, ending La Salle’s season while advancing to next week’s PIAA playoffs.

Alexander Scalamandre and Kyle Scheuerle each scored three times and Kevin Stump had a goal and two assists. But the hero of the day for the Hawks was faceoff specialist Daniel Fisher, who won an incredible 21 of 26 faceoffs, giving the Prep what seemed like continual possession of the ball.

“The kid was a machine,’ Leahy said. “We threw everybody we could at him.

“We felt if we could control possessions we could win, but we just didn’t have the ball enough.’

La Salle came out of the gate like it was destined to win its 11th PCL crown in 12 years.

Cody Mazurek and Aidan Kerrigan scored less than a minute apart early in the opening quarter to give the Explorers the early lead, while the Prep’s first four possessions ended in turnovers.

But the Prep bounced back quickly, with Peter Gayhardt notching a quick pair of goals.

And suddenly it was a Prep-La Salle game.

Their feet on the ground, the Hawks began playing with confidence and with a bold attacking offense.

“I love the way they play,’ Leahy said. “They just go to goal every time they get the ball.’

The Prep built a 5-3 lead on a goal by Griffin Fleming with 3:40 left in the half, and the Explorers needed a strong finish just to go into the break tied at 5.

But on this day the Hawks would not be denied.

While the Explorers scrambled in the areas of possessing, clearing and saving the ball, the Hawks’ confidence grew with each possession.

“We struggled getting faceoffs and we struggled clearing the ball,’ said senior middie Zach Drake. “We tried to make the best of it, but it’s tough to score goals when they have the ball.’

La Salle took its last lead at the 6:46 mark of the third quarter when Brett Baskin found the net. But the Prep owned the rest of the game.

Scheuerle scored twice and Fleming once in a three-goal run that put the Hawks in front to stay.

The Explorers stuck around, but with Fisher winning draw after draw, the Prep had scoring chances galore.

By game’s end, the Prep would outshoot La Salle, 41-31, and the Explorers were forced into the uncharacteristic role of chaser in a PCL title game.

“The same flaws that we worked on all year showed up tonight,’ Leahy said. “We just couldn’t fix our issues.’

The Prep bulge reached 11-8 with 8:00 left, and La Salle could do nothing to stem the tide.

As the final seconds of the game ran out, the Prep players and its fans stormed the field, and were still celebrating long after the Explorers had begun heading home.

“We have a lot to look forward to,’ Leahy said. “We have a super young team, a lot of very talented underclassmen and we should be very good in the future.’

But some Explorers, like Drake, won’t be around to enjoy those potential good times.

“I loved it,’ Drake said of his La Salle lacrosse career. “Playing for La Salle is a privilege and an honor and any other good thing you can think of.

“I love our coaches and I can’t say enough good things about my teammates.

“I loved every minute of it.’

END LINES: Both Prep goaltender Mike Marchese and La Salle netminder Conor Scafidi had 10 saves. … Mazurek and Kevin Lacon each had three goals for La Salle, while Baskin had two goals and an assist and Aidan Kerrigan had a goal and two assists.

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