WESTTOWN — Charlie Box wasn’t ready to say goodbye to high school lacrosse yet. Brian Box wasn’t ready to say goodbye to his one chance to team with his older brother.
Tuesday night, the brothers — Charlie, bound for Cornell in the fall, and Brian, one of the more prolific freshman performers in recent memory — powered Marple Newtown to an 8-6 win over West Chester Rustin and into the District 1 Class 2A final Thursday against Central League rival Penncrest.
In all, the brothers combined for five goals and three assists (two apiece for Charlie, a hat trick and a helper for Brian) as the Tigers took over late in a seesaw affair at the No. 2 seed Golden Knights.
Their collective effort was nearly matched by Rustin junior Antonio Santangelo, who racked up four goals and an assist in a contest that saw three lead changes. Neither team gained more than a one-goal advantage until the game’s final 4:27.
The victory cements for the Tigers (16-4) one of two spots available in the PIAA tournament. It’s Marple Newtown’s first trip to states since 1998.
“We’re a hustling team, a hard-working team – when we break it down, that’s what it’s all about,” coach Kevin Merchant said.
Both Box brothers have played sports throughout childhood, but the three-year age difference placed them on separate teams – until this past football season, when Brian entered ninth grade and joined his soon-to-graduate brother on the gridiron.
Lacrosse season has given the duo an added chance to hone their teamwork. They’ve made the most of it, combining for 190 points.
But in a tight game, hard work and hustle — in short, Charlie Box’s versatility — were the difference.
With 5:45 to go, the senior midfielder was isolated onto a Rustin defender, got a step to his right and unleashed an overhand bomb to give the Tigers a 6-5 lead.
Rather than celebrate, Charlie reported directly to the midfield stripe to take the ensuring draw.
“I’ve been taking faceoffs all my life,” he said after the game. “It’s not something I do all the time, but if we need a possession, I just go out there, try to be athlete and get a groundball for our team.”
He did just that, keeping Marple in control of possession and finding Brian for his favorite shot – a left-handed, sidearm rip – and the game’s first two-goal advantage with 4:27 left.
“I don’t want to see [my brother] go away – I don’t want to see his career end,” Brian added.
Rustin and Santangelo, however, had other ideas, as his fourth tally cut the Marple lead to 7-6 with just over three minutes to play. So Charlie Box returned to the stripe once more, and while he technically lost the draw, the Tigers caused an immediate turnover that culminated in Rob Wagner’s clinching marker with two minutes remaining.
The elder Box wasn’t done, delivering a bone-crunching hit to end Rustin’s final possession and allow Marple to run out the clock.
“It’s a physical sport, and I just love hitting,” Charlie said. “I saw an opportunity to make a play.”
“Penncrest’s a gritty team, just like us – we’ve seen them once, they’re athletic, but we just need to play our game,” added Brian Box.
The Golden Knights finish a breakout campaign at 13-6, one game shy of an opportunity to play for a District title and compete in states. But head coach Kevin Philbin wasn’t discussing any moral victories, as the Golden Knights proved they belonged and then some.
“This is one that we have to digest a little bit,” he said. “This is tough because it’s a great group of kids, these seniors who battled through missing [the 2020 season] and gave it all for this program.
“Nobody really deserved to lose tonight. It’s a shame that only two teams make it from District 1.”
Meanwhile, while Marple Newtown is happy to be back in the state tournament after nearly a quarter century, the fun doesn’t stop there.
“We’re pushing for a state championship,” Brian Box said. “It’s gonna take a lot to get there, but we’ve got the talent and the guys who will work for it on this team.”
And best of all, Marple has a pair of brothers who want to remain teammates as long as possible.