Late goal pushes Whippets past Knights in battle of unbeatens

UWCHLAN >> It is now official: the team to beat in the race for the 2023 Ches-Mont boys lacrosse title is defending champion Downingtown East. But West Chester Rustin came tantalizingly close on Tuesday to throwing the whole affair into chaos.

Senior attackman Bryson Kolinsky notched the game-winning goal with less than 10 seconds to go in regulation to push the Cougars’ to a hard-fought, defensive-minded 5-4 decision over the visiting Golden Knights. With four regular season matches to be played, East remains the lone unbeaten team in the league at 8-0 (10-2 overall). Rustin falls into a second place tie, along with Downingtown West, at 7-1 in the Ches-Mont (9-4 overall).

“It was two heavyweights throwing some body blows,” said Knights’ head coach Kevin Philibin.

“It was two really good defenses, really good goalies and some patient offenses,” added Cougars’ head coach Joe Horvath. “If you came to this game, it was worth the price of admission.

“If you look at District 1, other than a few teams, it is a complete dogfight. And our league is no different. It’s quite a challenge.”

There will be little time for East to enjoy this win as archrival Downingtown West is next on Thursday.

“That was a big win for us since this was the only two undefeated teams in the league – but we definitely have a tough one coming up on Thursday,” Kolinsky said.

Trailing by a goal heading into the fourth quarter, the Cougars scored two unanswered in the final 6 minutes, 23 seconds. The equalizer came from sophomore Ben Petrillo, which set the stage for the finish.

“We were talking about working for the best shot. Not forcing things, and the opportunities will come,” Kolinsky recalled. “The idea is to hit singles instead of trying to hit a home run.”

East keeper Brady Quinn only had five saves on the day but the sophomore came up with a huge one on an open shot by Rustin’s Jack O’Hora with about five minutes to go in a 4-4 battle.

“Jack had a nice inside roll and (Quinn) was able to get a foot on it,” Philibin said.

The Cougars secured possession with 2:25 on the clock, and held it until Kolinsky received a pass from Petrillo and found the top left corner of the cage to break the tie with 7.3 seconds to go.

“(Petrillo) was driving and the guy defending me kind of slid his way,” Kolinsky recounted. “I took the pass and had about a 12-yard shot and I took it.

“I knew I was going to rip it no matter what.”

Horvath added: “When you are playing a quality defense with a quality goalie, we preach patience. If the shot isn’t there, pull it out and we’ll go again. We’ve learned that from some of the better team’s we’ve played like Radnor and Springfield.

“We had just over two minutes and we told the kids if a shot is not there, move it around. We wanted to get the last shot, and we managed to do that.”

The outcome overshadowed an impressive outing by Knights’ goaltender Billy Carney. The senior stopped a dozen shots on goal, including eight key stops in the first half.

“We took a lot of great shots, but (Carney) kept making great saves,” Kolinsky said.

Senior attacker Jake Jackson helped Rustin get off to a great start, assisting on the first goal of the contest (by Aaron Cotter) in the final minute of the opening quarter, and then registering a pair of goals in the second quarter on clever plays from behind the cage.

“He’s really grown from a second or third option earlier in his career,” Philibin said of Jackson. “Along with Marek (Seaman), to have that 1-2 punch makes it difficult for opponents to account for both of them. And then with the other guys playing alongside them, Jake sees the field really well and his patience and decision making has really stepped up to another level.”

East got individual goals by Bo Horvath and Connor Sweeney and it was 3-2 at the half. Kolinsky then knotted the score with an early tally in the second half, but the Knights responded early in the fourth by ending a long possession with a goal by senior Antonio Santangelo, who took a pass from O’Hora.

“It hurts, but we’ve been here before,” Philibin said of the setback. “We lost to Marple Newtown in the district semifinal last year, and it felt similar. But after that one, the season was over. With this one, we still have a lot to go.”

The Cougars entered the game having outscored the previous seven Ches-Mont foes 103-23. The big difference statistically on Tuesday was that the Cougars had a near two-to-one edge in shots on goal (17-9). It was a testament to East’s overall team defense.

“We have to give a lot of the credit to our defense,” Kolinsky said. “They’ve been playing well all season. The offense needs to step it up.”

Downingtown East 5, West Chester Rustin 4

West Chester Rustin                                  1 2 0 1 — 4

Downingtown East                                     0 2 1 2 — 5

West Chester Rustin goals: Jackson 2, Cotter, Santangelo.

Downingtown East goals: Kolinsky 2, Petrillo, Sweeney, Horvath.

Goalie saves: Carney (R) 12; Quinn (DE) 5.

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