Two OT wins lead to third straight title
Another year, another district championship for the Emmaus boys lacrosse program. And this one was well earned.
It may not have been head coach Scott Ketcham's most talented team in the last three years, but it worked hard to earn this year's District 11 championship trophy.
The Green Hornets (14-7 overall) bounced back from a three-goal deficit at halftime behind the stout play of their experienced defense and a game-winning goal by Colin Mason to take down No. 2 seed Southern Lehigh last Thursday night at Nazareth High School for their third consecutive District 11 title.
"We just needed to get our heads right and get back into it," Mason said of the deficit. "I'm really glad to be a part of something like this. It was just an amazing feeling. I don't even have words to describe it. I'm just in shock right now."
Just two nights earlier, Emmaus was forced into extra time against top-seeded Easton. In that semifinal matchup, the Hornets once again had to climb back from an early deficit as they fell into a four-goal hole early in the second period. Ketcham was afraid the same thing might happen to his team in the final.
"I just felt we had a hangover from Tuesday night, and I was really, really worried about that," Ketcham said. "And it happened. The expectation at Emmaus is to win these championships, but this was the hardest one in my tenure. This team, they have talent, obviously, but they're the hardest working."
After goals from Ben Johnston, Mike Nelson, Blake Levengood, Kevin Cummings and Collin Hoff, the Hornets were down 7-1 early in the second quarter against Southern Lehigh.
Junior Jared Baker scored two second-quarter goals to start the comeback for Emmaus, and the defense, consisting of Claude Bradshaw, Andy Davidson, Pat Camilli and Jacob Baker, held the Spartans to only one more goal the remainder of the game. Southern Lehigh diddn't score again until the 4:16 mark of the fourth quarter.
"It was one of the best defensive performances I've ever seen at any level," Ketcham said.
"It was all mental," Bradshaw said. "We've had mental lapses. It's happened all year in the first quarter, then we finally get it together and our offense gets us back in the game."
In that semifinal victory against Easton, the Hornets watched as the Red Rovers raced out to a quick 4-1 first-quarter lead and a 5-1 advantage when Justin Barbos open the second with another tally.
But the Hornets, behind four goals in a span of 2:39 seconds, tied the game at five with two minutes to play in the half. The teams took a 6-6 game into the break.
"That's how we've been for the whole year, and I'm not sure why," Camilli said. "We've started slow a lot, so I'm used to it. I knew we could come back from it. And we did."
Neither team led by more than two goals in the second half. Emmaus held a 9-7 advantage on Mason's goal early in the fourth. Easton was able to rally in the fourth to force a 10-10 game and two overtime periods.
And when the second overtime session started, Camilli wasted little time in advancing the Hornets back to another district championship game with an 11-10 victory. It was Camilli's third goal of the game.
"We pushed transition and we got a nice clear," Camilli said. "Tyler Corpora gave me a good look, and I just stung it."
It's not something new for Emmaus to be behind. The Hornets started the year 3-4, and many doubted they would be in this position to defend their title, especially with the play of Easton, Southern Lehigh and Parkland, all seeded higher than the Hornets in the district tournament.
"We've faced adversity all year," said Bradshaw. "A lot of people doubted us, saying we weren't going to win this year. And here we are. We want to prove people wrong. I think that drove us all year."
Emmaus advances to another PIAA tournament. The Hornets will meet Central Bucks East, the No. 4 team from District 1 Wednesday evening at Nazareth High School.