Radnor dismantles Springfield to reach title game

HAVERFORD — If there was any shock in the faces of members of the Springfield boys lacrosse team Tuesday, it wasn’t because the ebb and flow of the game looked foreign.

The Cougars knew it well: What it was like to have an arsenal of scorers firing in tandem, to frustrate an opposing attack out of its game, to execute a game plan crisply and comprehensively.

But for the first time this postseason, Springfield was on the wrong end of it.

The recipe that Springfield had used to claim a District One title mirrored how Radnor ended the Cougars’ chase for a PIAA title, running out to a thoroughly and staggeringly efficient 12-5 win in the PIAA semifinal at Haverford High School Tuesday afternoon.

The win earns the Raiders (20-6) its first PIAA final berth. They’ll meet District 12 champion St. Joseph’s Prep, which romped over District Three’s Cumberland Valley, 19-7, in a lopsided “western’ final.

All the elements that Springfield (19-5) had used on opponents to great effect in districts were apparent in Radnor’s dismantling Tuesday.

The Raiders got balanced scoring, with seven players finding the back of the net, led by a first-quarter hat trick by Mike Thompson, who had notched all of four goals in the season’s first 25 games.

Defensively, they did a superb job of denying Springfield any looks. The Cougars led, 4-3, early in the second quarter when Mike Gerzabek scored at 8:01 on the team’s 13th shot of the game; Radnor’s defense surrendered only five shots in the next two-and-a-half quarters.

The cornerstone of the defense was muting Lucas Spence, who scored just one goal, at 4:46 of the fourth quarter in finally curtailing an 8-0 run by Radnor. Spence got a variety of defensive looks thrown his way, whether he was being shadowed by a pole like Dario Falcone or Hal Marshall or shut off from possession by a short-stick defensive midfielder like Alex Hino.

“They were just in on our hands, playing great team D,’ Spence said. “Everyone knew what they were doing, and they were well-coached today. And they knew what we were going to do. They played us well. … They did a great job of at least taking the air out of me at the beginning.’

The magic of the plan wasn’t so much Radnor’s ability to unilaterally impose one coverage or another, but Radnor’s collective comfort in toggling between looks as the matchup dictated and to keep Springfield off balance.

“He’s a great player,’ Falcone said of Spence. “Little tweaks around the edges, but it doesn’t change our fundamental defense: Communication, being physical and hard work. … We predicate our defense on anyone being able to play anyone, short sticks, long poles. I think that’s what makes us so great.’

“We know anyone can play him,’ Hino said. “He’s a great player, but our defense is strong. We have confidence that anyone can play him.’

That tenacity gave the offense room to operate. Coming off a 13-4 win against Conestoga in Saturday’s quarterfinals that may have been the most fluid offensive execution of the season, Tuesday’s performance made a strong bid for that crown in an offense that has evolved as many of its young and talented pieces have grown into larger roles.

“I think it just keeps improving,’ said Clayton Proctor, one of those rapidly improving sophomores who scored twice. “It’s really awesome because at the beginning of the season, we weren’t playing (as) all six guys. Now toward the end of the season, we’re really playing great team offense and I think it keeps getting better and better.’

It began with Thompson’s first-quarter hat trick, which put the Raiders up 3-2 after 12 minutes and buoyed the group’s aspirations.

“It really just boosted us,’ Proctor said. “… It was awesome to see him score, and it just lifted us.’

The tide of momentum was momentarily stemmed by the personal duel that Thompson and Springfield’s Dan Wasson appeared to be waging, with the duo accounting for the game’s first six goals. Wasson finished his hat trick at 8:26 of the second quarter, 25 seconds before Gerzabek gave Springfield its final lead of the day.

Drew Ryan scored his first of two goals by tickling the underside of the crossbar at 4:27 of the second quarter to tie the game, and from there, it snowballed for Radnor.Proctor put the Raiders ahead for good with 51 ticks left in the half, another youngster in Cole Scheuerle providing the assist, then Jack Norton set up Proctor 67 seconds into the second half. Norton, who’d been held off the scoresheet for seven quarters, an uncharacteristically long drought for the sniper, got in on the act, as did Kyler Albany, Phil Regan and Jack Wilson on the 8-0 spurt that put Springfield in the rear-view mirror and penciled Hershey into Saturday’s plans.

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