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CB West changes fortune in second half to edge North Penn

Central Bucks West’s David Ross controls the ball near North Penn's Stephen Rinck during their game on Friday, May 3, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

TOWAMENCIN >> It only took Central Bucks West 12 minutes to change its biggest game of the season.

After being stonewalled for much of the first half and going to the break down two goals on the road at North Penn, the Bucks boys lacrosse team knew it needed to find another gear. They couldn’t have responded much better out of the halftime break, scoring five third quarter goals while not allowing any.

CB West still needed a crucial late faceoff win to help hold off the charging Knights 8-7 Friday afternoon as the last two unbeaten in the SOL National finally met.

“We’ve been working at this all four years I’ve been here,” West senior defenseman Blake Ewaskey said. “All that work finally accumulated to the point that we’re undefeated in the league and hopefully leads to us winning the SOL.”

Both teams still have two conference games next week, but the Bucks’ (12-2, 7-0 SOL National) win Friday gave them a strong inside track to clinching at least a share of the program’s first SOL title or an outright crown if they win out against Harry S Truman on Tuesday and Pennsbury on Thursday.

North Penn’s Dakar Luby goes to pass during the Knights’ game against Central Bucks West on Friday, May 3, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

After 24 minutes on Friday, a title was the last thing on any of the players’ minds as they gathered for their halftime talk down 4-2. The Knights’ (9-6, 6-1 SOL National) defense had been wall-like in the first half, helping the hosts pitch a 3-0 shut out after the first quarter and for the first eight minutes of the second.

Even when the Bucks finally got on the board, North Penn’s Danny Payne answered with eight seconds left in the half to restore a multi-goal lead.

“The difference in the game was the third quarter,” North Penn coach Rick Smith said. “That third quarter we probably played defense for about 11 minutes and in a game like this, you just can’t afford to play defense for that long.”

That’s not to take anything away from the Bucks’ defensive unit which had still played a solid first half despite the deficit.

“I felt a little nervous only because it was going the other way than we’d expected,” Bucks goalie Max Dunar said. “It was a lot faster than we’d thought it’d be, but, we’ve been in this situation before and I felt confident we could turn it around and it wasn’t a lost hope at all.

“I knew if we slowed it down, played as the one in control and not playing in reaction to the other team, we would be fine.”

The tide turned after halftime with a couple of adjustments from West and a resolute effort by faceoff man Garrett Hitchens. Hitchens, a senior, had battled to a fairly even first half with North Penn freshman Will Morrow but turned up his efforts in the second half.

Smith felt Morrow still put up a good fight against the Hood-bound Hitchens but it was the lack of 50-50 balls off the draws that hurt the Knights on the X. With the Bucks cleaning up the faceoffs, they held plenty of possession in the third quarter.

“(Bucks coach Matt Coverdale) stressed the importance of faceoffs at halftime and the need for possessions,” Hitchens said. “I just zoned in and focused on every single one like it was most important in the game and just getting the ground ball.

“Once I get a feel for it, it helps but I also stress the importance of possession to myself. Every ground ball matters that much more.”

Central Bucks West’s Conor Albrecht goes to pass near North Penn’s Nate Tagert during their game on Friday, May 3, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

Jake Ojert assisted the first two CB West goals in the third quarter to tie the game 4-4. David Ross then gave West its first lead on a hustle play, scooping up a ground ball off a saved shot and rifling it back into the net with 2:26 left in the frame.

Ross then added an assist on Jake Lang’s goal. Ewaskey showed his full arsenal of skills on the next goal, starting off a timeout by carrying the ball most of the field before he cut toward the North Penn net and made a last-second pass to Conor Albrecht for a 7-4 lead.

Smith didn’t feel like his defensive group had any fundamental breakdowns in the quarter, it was just a matter of how much time they spent defending.

“I really think we just played a ton of defense and that was the difference,” Smith said. “In the fourth quarter, we got in pretty good. We got in a zone a little bit, moved the ball well enough but that third quarter, that’s what I’m putting it on.”

Ewaskey also teamed with Dunar and the rest of the defensive unit – long poles Lucas Villalba and Colin Baker and shorties Ben Shelly, Owen Vrancken and Mike Miletto to take away some of the North Penn looks that had frustrated them in the first half.

“We knew they’re a great team and would get their chances no matter how great a defense we played,” Ewaskey said. “We just knew coming out of halftime if we kept playing body and communicating well, we weren’t going to have many problems at the end of the game.”

North Penn did storm back in the final quarter, with the Knights own long pole in Nic Conroy setting up a tally for Jake Homan to spark the hosts.

Ojert answered with a dart of a shot for an 8-5 lead with 5:45 left, important as it would end up holding as the game-winner.

Danny Payne, who led the Knights with a hat trick, notched his second goal with 3:21 left before Morrow helped the Knights’ faceoff unit win the next draw. North Penn cashed in on the win, with Stephen Rinck finding Payne again, cutting the lead to one with 2:30 left.

North Penn defender Jake Nelson stays close Central Bucks West’s Christian Kunkel during their game on Friday, May 3, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

Hitchens came up with his last win of the day on the next draw and the Bucks were able to kill off the clock to keep themselves alone atop the SOL National.

“I just did what I do at every faceoff, focus on getting the ball and possessing it for our team,” Hitchens said. “It’s just the hours of work put in paying off.”

The Bucks players know they still have work to do and Ewaskey even noted Coverdale’s first message to them was “we’re not done yet.” For a group that’s built a strong chemistry both throughout this season and dating back the years they’ve played together, they weren’t worried about getting too stuck in the emotions of Friday’s win.

“It was still nervewracking, but once it got down to the final couple seconds we all started getting really excited, it was just a great team win to be a part of,” Dunar said. “We do a good job keeping ourselves in check, we have a lot of good team leadership with guys like Blake and Erik (Ojert) and we’re always looking to just take what we learned from our last game and build on it.”


NORTH PENN 3 1 0 3 – 7
Goals-Assists: CBW – Jake Ojert 1-2, Christian Kunkel 2-0, Erik Ojert 2-0, David Ross 1-1, COnor Albrecht 1-0, Jake Lang 1-0, Blake Ewaskey 0-1; NP – Danny Payne 3-0, Stephen Rinck 1-2, Conor Young 1-1, Eric Dickson 1-0, Jake Homan 1-0, Nic Conroy 0-1. Shots: CBW – 17, NP – 16. Saves: CBW – Max Dunar 9, NP – Bryan Rimmer 9.

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