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Bonner-Prendie stands alone in motionless surrender to dominant Carroll

If it looks like there's nothing going on in this picture, that's by design: Bonner-Prendergast (red jerseys) opted not to engage Archbishop Carroll in their second-half, clock-killing passing drills in a 20-0 loss in the Catholic League playoffs. (Staff Photo)

RADNOR — When Archbishop Carroll’s girls lacrosse team gets going, it can seem like it’s the only team out on the field; moving the ball, dodging and passing at will.

It appeared that way Wednesday afternoon, in the Catholic League semifinals. Only Bonner-Prendergast was on the field, too, its spent defenders standing stock still in the defensive zone while Carroll, already 20 goals to the good, went through its passing motions.

The 20-0 victory for Carroll wasn’t necessarily new in Lorraine Beers’ 21 years as the coach of the Patriots. But her 251st consecutive win against Catholic League opposition was the first in which the other team opted for passive resistance. From the time the clock hit eight minutes to play in the first half and the margin hit 20, Bonner-Prendergast decided not to chase a Carroll attack that was merely passing the ball around the perimeter or feinting toward goal with no intention of scoring. The unwillingness to engage yielded a bizarre second half where the most action came from heated conversations between the coaching boxes.

The decision, Bonner-Prendergast coach Jason Blemings said, was made with his team. Instead of chasing Carroll through its passing drill, even as Carroll subbed liberally and had JV players log significant time in the first half, the Pandas stood in the pre-summer swelter at Carroll.

So for the final few interminable minutes of the first half, Carroll weaved through disinterested Pandas, throwing passes, pump-faking on the crease, circulating the ball in a peculiar pantomime of the sport, even had it not been a Catholic League playoff game with states implications that fourth-seeded Bonner-Prendie had to win for such reward.

“I personally would prefer to play lacrosse for 50 minutes and lose by 35 goals,” Blemings said. “Everyone argues that that’s bad optics. In my opinion, a team as talented as (Carroll) playing keepaway from us for 25 minutes is also bad optics. So they wanted us to engage and chase them around, and I refused to do it. I wanted them to play the game and score more goals if necessary to play the game, and they refused to do it. And we were at an impasse.”

“It’s all about disrespect in (other coaches’) eyes, and I don’t know quite how to respond to that,” Beers said. “I feel like you disrespect the game by not at least holding your stick in your hand and when a groundball rolls by you, at least making an attempt. So to me, play the game.”

The sidelines loggerheads meant no one played much lacrosse. Bonner-Prendergast won just two of 22 draws in what shaped up as a “near-impossible task,” in Blemings’ words. They didn’t break the restraining line to the offensive zone until the 12:50 mark of the second half and didn’t register a shot on goal. In the precious few times they got the ball, the Pandas couldn’t hold onto it. Short of five saves from Hailey Dunfee in her second career start, the highlights were nil.

With the structure of girls lacrosse, with no shot clock and stringent limits on physicality, the Pandas’ only recourse to get the ball back was to wait for Carroll to make mistakes. And that waiting was apparently too much for a team in a rebuilding year, fielding just 20 bodies with no seniors, no JV reserves and a couple of season-ending injuries.

“It’s hard for us but nothing really we can do about it,” Bonner-Prendie’s Ainsley George said. “We played them before and knew something like this was going to happen. So we just had to try our best and come together as a team.”

Carroll played lacrosse for as long as it needed to. The running-clock mercy rule went into effect at 4:50 into the game. In a familiar tactic, Beers changed players early and often, no one scoring more than one goal. She called off the shooting dogs at 20.

Kiley Mottice led the way with a goal and three assists. Machaela Henry, Karli Dougherty and Chloe Bleckley tallied a goal and two assists each. Henry led the way with six draw controls. Sienna Golden added four.

“We go into every game with the same mentality of just giving it our all,” Carroll captain Keri Barnett said. “During some games like these where it gets like that, in the beginning we’re definitely giving it our all, not expecting it to come out like that.”

All that scoring was condensed into 17 minutes. Carroll followed it by playing catch around the perimeter and, when that failed, surrendering possession to the Pandas in the crease.

For Beers, Wednesday was a first, but the catch-22 isn’t new. She’s tried to massage egos in blowouts before, whether intentionally shooting high of the cage or making sure the JV gets most of the time.

Barnett, Mottice, Dougherty and Co. played barely 20 minutes between them Wednesday. She’s gotten flak for scoring too much; Wednesday’s perceived disrespect came from refusing to score more.

But telling her girls to give less than their best isn’t something she’s prepared to do, nor is telling a team that dominant to just “be less good” a palatable or useful lesson. Blemings said he didn’t blame Beers and that this is an issue the Catholic League has looked at, as its long-time imbalance beneath Carroll’s hegemony can stretch to 20 years in Friday’s final against No. 2 Cardinal O’Hara (5 p.m., Conwell-Egan).

That game, Beers hopes, will have less of Wednesday’s extracurricular complications.

“We’re going to show up every day and we’re going to try to play lacrosse,” Beers said. That’s our job. And we’re going to try to prepare our girls for other teams. … That’s how we practice and prepare.”

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