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Emotional Mazur buoys Strath Haven in upset

LOWER MERION >> Hunter Mazur’s tone in postgame interviews differs from the self-assuredness he has carried unfailingly to the X this season for Strath Haven.

When it comes to managing the emotions of an occasion like Saturday’s PIAA quarterfinal at Harriton, Mazur is sheepish and reserved in describing his, well, lack of reservations about showing his joy on the field and how the swings help dictate his play.

“I don’t know if you can notice, but I go kind of crazy when we score a goal and I’m on the field, or if I get a goal, it’s the greatest thing ever,” Mazur said. “So, yeah.”

Strath Haven’s Jack Borbee (7) is congratulated by Will Huestis (20) after scoring in Saturday’s 10-9 upset of District One champion Upper Dublin in a PIAA quarterfinal. (Digital First Media/John Strickler)

Strath Haven’s Jack Borbee (7) is congratulated by Will Huestis (20) after scoring in Saturday’s 10-9 upset of District One champion Upper Dublin in a PIAA quarterfinal. (Digital First Media/John Strickler)

Usually, the United States Military Academy-bound junior is used to generating offense with his success on draws. Saturday, the junior worked in reverse, but he still had a big hand in powering a 10-9 upset of District One champ Upper Dublin.

Mazur provided two goals and an assist, and those offensive contributions from a player far more complete than the typical face-off-get-off mold helped shift what started as a lackluster day at the X.

The first half belonged to UD’s All-American defender Jack Rapine, who won nine of the first 15 draws. But Mazur rallied, and when he surged, so did the Panthers (19-6), who go on to play Central League rival Springfield in Tuesday’s eastern final.

Mazur set the tone in the second quarter, when Upper Dublin (21-3) used three goals in 1:09 to accrue a 5-2 lead. Mazur ripped home a goal in transition off a Will Huestis feed, then won the ensuring draw for Huestis to capitalize on an extended possession and send the teams into half at 5-4.

Rapine regained the upper hand in the third period, as the Cardinals again threatened to run away with the game, Michael Sowers setting up Max Winebrake for a goal that reinstated the three-goal spread at 7-4 with 7:38 left in the quarter.

But Haven wouldn’t go away. Jake Ross scored off a pass from a largely muted Jeffrey Conner, Jack Borbee finished a Huestis feed and Mazur won the ensuring faceoff, dishing to Ross for a second goal in six seconds to tie matters at 7.

When Sowers, who finished his storied high school career with four goals and two assists, nudged UD ahead early in the fourth, Mazur answered with a dodge and a rip through the five-hole of an otherwise outstanding Dillon Lojeski to knot matters at eight.

Mazur won the next draw — part of a 5-for-6 final quarter that raised his tally to 12-for-23 on the day — and 70 seconds later, Borbee deposited the game-winner, an audacious one-handed effort with a defender draped all over him as he snuck out from behind the cage to Lojeski’s right.

Though Borbee is quick to downplay the importance of his return after missing 12 games (including districts) with a concussion, it was precisely the kind of game-changing play that earns him the “X-factor” status.

“I know I needed to come up big,” Borbee said. “We were tied and I wanted to step up and be a leader on our team. Thankfully I did that, got a hold in my hand and let it rip with one hand. Thank God it went in.”

Despite a score jumping into double-digits, frustration was the order of the day for both offenses. Serving it up for Upper Dublin was Lojeski, who was phenomenal in making 16 saves. He produced a litany of kick saves on a low-shooting Panthers attack and supplied three vital denials after Huestis made the game 10-8 with 2:52 left to keep UD’s hopes of a comeback alive.

Strath Haven's Jeffrey Conner prepares to take a shot on Dillon Lojeski's goal during the first quarter against Upper Dublin Saturday. (Digital First Media/John Strickler)

Strath Haven’s Jeffrey Conner prepares to take a shot on Dillon Lojeski’s goal during the first quarter against Upper Dublin Saturday. (Digital First Media/John Strickler)

“They just kept shooting through the crowd of the defense,” the sophomore said. “They were well-placed shots. Some were iffy shots and some were great shots, in off the pipe and picking corners.”

Haven’s defense was buoyed by the less heralded but nonetheless integral injury return of defender Michael Scott. Like Borbee, Scott missed districts with a concussion. But his reintegration allowed Frantz to shadow Sowers, replacing his excellent wing play on draws, while Anders Camp took the lead in minimizing Upper Dublin’s ancillary shooting threats, ones that become deadly when fed in dangerous positions by Sowers.

“The goal was for him not to make other players better,” Frantz said of Sowers. “We wanted to force him to the cage and make him make plays for himself and not really just bang it to other guys cutting off ball. We just played him really tough on ball and forced him under and tried to make his passes and shots under pressure much more difficult.”

All four of Sowers goals were unassisted, and he contributed to just one marker in the final 18 minutes.
Haven still had to navigate a crazy ending after Huestis’ second goal could’ve iced it. They went up a man but couldn’t stretch the advantage, thanks to Lojeski. Michael Mullen scored with 1:15 to play to restore the one-goal margin.

Rapine won the ensuing draw, but Haven caused a turnover with 38 seconds left, and with coach Jef Hewlings smartly rationing timeouts, Conner and company ran out the clock incrementally in what goes down as a sizeable upset, from an underdog that overwhelmingly welcomes that label.

“No one ever thought we would get this far,” Borbee said. “No one ever thought we’d get this far. People looked down on us. … But we brought it today and we showed them that the Central League, we’re making a run for states, and we’re not done yet.”

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