It was worth it.
3 hours and fifteen minutes up I-95 and west on 528 . . .
A great game . . .
3 hours and fifteen minutes home on the Turnpike.
This was the most interesting matchup to me in the first round. Technically the Pine Crest-Saint Andrew’s game was a better matchup by my poll but this was a close second and the only time I’ve seen playoff games in the Orlando area were Final Fours, and it’s been a long time since (2013 to be exact) so the game took on more desire to see. A one-goal regular season result. Lots of talent. Coaches with a lot of success. All signs pointed to a big game.
Final Four worthy.
And a location I’ve never been to.
Large crowd. Concession stand opened! As close to normal as most of us have felt since that awful day last year when the season shut down. A fun time in the press box with the PA announcer and timekeeper.
Hats off to Lake Mary. They played a nearly perfect first half. 9 goals on 12 shots on goal. Only 3 turnovers. 3 of 4 on EMO plus a short-hand goal. Held their opponent to 7 shot attempts and only 4 of those on goal in the half. Against an offense that beat back the Shark Tank their last game.
3 turnovers is amazing when you also see 20 shot attempts at this level.
A freshman stepped up big. Lake Mary’s top scorer was injured in pre-game; he scored the first goal and that was it for the day. Cue the understudy named Caden. Caden Can Do. 3G/3A and a handful to guard all game. Even ran out the clock in the last minute in the two-man game behind the net. He probably had a nice day at school this morning. If he ever took any kidding in the past about his lengthy last name that likely died over the weekend.
Creekside didn’t give up. With half the fourth quarter to go they had crawled back within 3 and had some possessions . . . just couldn’t find those last few shots that would have brought on a passionate crunch time. They have plenty of firepower coming back. This season might have ended badly but the program learned something about itself this year and that can be built upon. They got over the Hump, as we talked about at the Rivalry. I got to see talent that was only names before; they are memories now. You’ll be back to challenge again.
One team outplaying another for most of the 48 minutes. High School sports at their best.
Well worth the drive.
Lake Mary opened the scoring less than a minute into the game, picking off a clearing pass in the middle of the field and Brandon Perkins found Josh Donovan on the right wing and his right hand hit the top left at 11:06 for 1-0. Caden Harshbarger made it 2-0 as he curled behind right, finishing with a backhand to the top. Creekside’s terrific Mana Wilhelm got one back at 5:44 as he took the Zach Bender feed from behind the goal up top for the step down to the low left of the cage. At 3:55 it was Griffin Curry finding Harshbarger cutting the alley and fed him from low right for the behind the back shot on EMO for 3-1 and at 1:52 it was Curry finding the loose ball in front for another EMO goal and 4-1 after one.
Jordin Pollock made it 4-2 early in the second, also on EMO, as he snuck out from behind the cage, with Wilhelm finding him from top right for the finish in front just 30 seconds into the quarter. Lake Mary then went on the run that gave them the buffer they never relinquished. At 10:01 it was Harshbarger working the right side, stepping back and finishing left hand low for 5-2. Less than 2 minutes later it was Perkins scoring the shorthand goal on the right wing step down shot, finishing off the fast break feed from Harshbarger. Koby White then dodged from top left to the middle and his right hand found the low left for 7-2. Lake Mary finished off the run with a Nate Gray EMO goal, sneaking out from behind left and another turnover leading to White taking the Aaron Tichinoff pass on the left win to make it 9-2 at the half.
That was stretched to 10-2 at 10:01 as Harshbarger found Gray from behind left for the left wing step down right hand to the low right for the biggest lead of the night, but that’s when Creekside made their run. At 7:41 it was Wilhelm weaving down the middle and face dodging in front for the low shot, drawing a penalty that the Knights didn’t convert on. At 3:28 it was Bender dodging from top left to the middle for the high bounce shot for 10-4. With 1:08 left it was Pollock going backdoor on the fast break as Connor McCord found him from the middle for the finish and as time expired in the 3rd Ian Schultz drew a slide up top and found Ethan Binns on the right wing for the left hand to the far side to draw Creekside within shouting distance at 10-6.
The Rams stemmed the run on EMO at 10:37 as Harshbarger found White with the skip pass from low right to the top left for the step down and 11-6 but Colin Mayberry answered 22 seconds later, finishing all alone after the turnover. At 6:56 it was Bender face-dodging down the middle for the low shot and the lead was down to 11-8 but that was as close as Creekside would get as the teams exchanged late goals as Gray found Tichinoff at 3:40 and Bender being credited with the goal at 1:12 as the goalie dropped the outlet pass into the net while raking it in.
Once again, thanks kids. For the seniors moving on, the best of luck to whatever you end up doing in the future!
Here’s Lake Mary HC Garrick Robinson after the game:
Faceoffs: Creekside 13-10
Shots: Lake Mary 32-24
Shots on Goal: Lake Mary 19-15
Turnovers: Creekside 17-9
Penalties: Lake Mary 9-5
Caden Harshbarger 3G/3A
Koby White 3G
Nate Gray 2G/1A
Brandon Perkins, Griffin Curry and Aaron Tichinoff with 1G/1A each
Josh Donovan 1G
Owen Robinson with 6 saves
Zach Bender 3G/1A
Mana Wilhelm 2G/1A
Jordin Pollack 2G
Ethan Binns and Colin Mayberry with 1G each
Connor McCord and Ian Schultz with 1A each
Josh Griffin with 7 saves
Thansk to Coach Robinson and Coach Alford for talking to me before and after the game.