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PIAA Class 3A Boys Lacrosse: Finding Max Busenkell smart play for rallying Garnet Valley

Max Busenkell, left, scoring a goal against Kennett in the District 1 playoffs, had two goals, including the winner, and three assists in Garnet Valley's 12-9 victory over St. Joseph's Prep in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals Saturday. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

WEST GROVE — With the mercury north of 90 degrees and 40-plus minutes of strenuous lacrosse in its legs, Garnet Valley knew how fine the margins of the possession would be.

With its PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal against St. Joseph’s Prep tied late and the Jaguars having scrapped to regain possession, it would be the quality of moves tossed at the Hawks that would matter, not the quantity.

“Not only were we really patient, we were really tired,” attackman Joey Halloran said. “So we knew we weren’t going to be able to go 120 percent, dodging down the alleys. We knew we had to make smart passes and smart plays.”

The smart play in crunch time for Garnet Valley is to always find Max Busenkell.

Busenkell beat his man and rifled home the game-winner, then set up Halloran for an insurance tally and iced the game himself, Garnet Valley scoring five times in the fourth quarter to claim a 12-9 come-from-behind win at Avon Grove High School.

The win sends the District 1 runner-up (19-5) into the state semifinal for a third meeting with Kennett, which rallied past Wissahickon, 11-8. That game is Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

Busenkell was held down in the first half, the Notre Dame commit limited to one assist, as Prep locked him off for large stretches and elected to take its chances 5-v-5. But Busenkell set up Halloran to tie the game at 7 on the man-up in the third quarter. Bishop Barnes, who set up Ryan Nealon to re-tie the game at 8 on the man-advantage 32 seconds into the fourth, put the Jaguars ahead for the first time at 9-8 with 6:33 to play. But Scott O’Connor’s third goal of the game restored parity at 5:08.

Busenkell’s brilliance aside, each team had a key moment late to point to. For Prep, it arrived with four seconds left in the third, when Ryan Gaffney appeared to put the team up two with a leaping goal on the crease. But instead of a 9-7 lead, he was called for an illegal body check for jumping into goalie Drew Keaveney, wiping off the goal and allowing Nealon to knot the game.

“I thought we had that, so I was like, everyone get out and let them make the call and we didn’t get it,” O’Connor, a Broomall native, said. “I was just trying to keep everyone calm and keep playing our game. You can’t do anything about the ref’s decision. After that, we finished the quarter, tried to regroup and kept playing the way we know how.”

Garnet didn’t get the first chance at making it 10-9. That went to Prep, which won the draw after O’Connor’s tying tally. But that possession ended with a Luke Shoemaker check and a Bear Evans groundball to get the Jaguars a look.

“That was one of the biggest momentum shifts of the game,” defender Sam Morin said. “Luke with the phenomenal over-the-head check, even though we tell him not to go over the head, was great. Bear a great groundball clear. Everybody looked in sync. We looked like we were playing for years together.”

Morin was crucial in nullifying Prep’s edge at the faceoff X, GV stalemating them at 12 wins each. Morin went 8-for-16 and caused a boatload of turnovers when Mitch Lloyd of Prep won draws. The junior Maryland commit went 8-for-13 at the X and played mostly as a middie with a hat trick. He and fellow FOGO Ethan Spillane scored 11 seconds apart in the first quarter to stake Prep to a two-goal lead.

O’Connor scored three goals as the Hawks, who lost to Garnet Valley 8-7 in March, dictated tempo early and forced GV into uncharacteristic mistakes in possession.

“I wouldn’t say we really panicked in the first half,” Halloran said. “It was more we were forcing mistakes. So when the second half came, we knew we had to possess the ball because when they got the ball, they took really long possessions and we knew the ball was going to be valuable.”

Halloran (four goals, assist) and JP DeMarco (goal, two assists) kept GV afloat until Busenkell shook off the shackles. Barnes also tallied a hat trick.

At the crucial moment, that trust in the team concept remained. And it freed Busenkell to be the guy.

“We all trust each other on the offensive side of the ball, so it doesn’t really matter who’s taking that shot at the end,” he said. “But I was just glad I could stick it.”



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