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A Look Back at 2014 – My Commentary From Bradenton, Including the Benjamin-STA Semifinal

Written by Lee Roggenburg on . Posted in .
  This is the second in a short series of game recaps we wrote in 2014 for the Final Four in Bradenton.  Since we have the same semifinal matchups we thought it would be fun to re-run the coverage from then!  Lake Highland Prep looking to repeat their 2013 championship run against Ponte Vedra!  Ponte Vedra came into the game 21-2 with the only two losses in OT to Boca Raton and Jupiter.  LHP came into the game with an 18-3 record with the losses to Jupiter, Boys’ Latin and McDonogh. Benjamin came into the game at 14-5 with a 10-game winning streak . . . actually pretty similar to this year.  St. Thomas came in 15-5 and on a 9-game winning streak.  Each team had played an enormous schedule and STA in particular had to overcome a slew of injuries. I did not do a full game recap on the semifinals but had produced a pictorial article utilizing a Shakespeare theme.  Unfortunately in our transition to a new server we lost the picture component of that article so I can’t just link to the old one. The commentary is going to end with the faceoff of the Boys Championship game, as we will run that game article tomorrow. Hope you enjoy my look back as written as a running commentary!     Well, our long weekend is starting to take on a Weekend At Bernie’s feel to it with the games playing the Bernie character. Due to the rains yesterday (and the Tornado Warning – darn, thought I might have been able to check that one off the bucket list yesterday without spending a dime!) the Girl’s Semi’s were supposed to start at 10:00am this morning, but due to the similar pattern to yesterday we are now looking at: 3:00pm and 5:00pm for the girls, 8:00pm for the boys final and tomorrow for the girl’s finals! Meaning there is still plenty of time to scrounge up a good Vichy . . . I think that I will sort of use the time in a little different fashion. Instead of doing a full-blown story on the STA-Benjamin game last night I’ll take a different route and think it through analytically over time. Brian will be doing a PV-LHP game recap separately and I’d like to put a few thoughts out on that too. But I will think it through first and come back to this article around noon for that. And the rain delay does help one thing:   HOBART – BRYANT!! 1:00pm For the NCAA bid! Go ‘Bart!!  Online! Free!   See ya all at noon!   Well, It’s almost noon! 11:53am   Thoughts on LHP-PV This match-up is taking on the same feeling that Saint Andrew’s and S. Thomas Aquinas in that both teams have terrific programs but one team always seems to come out on top no matter what. But that’s not really what happened last night. For one simple reason. LHP has Max Parker and Ponte Vedra doesn’t. It wasn’t private vs. public or anything else. One player made all the difference last night.  Probably playing the best game he EVER has.  At the right time. Max DID NOT LOSE A SINGLE FACE-OFF. I think it was 26-0 because one period did not start with one. And on top of that converted a hat trick when PV tried to isolate him after the draw. I didn’t check to see if he re-bandaged anyone’s ankles during halftime.  Given his medical future it wouldn’t surprise me. This was one of those games where Ponte Vedra was able to hang around but just not be able to put together enough runs to make it seem like LHP might lose.  The only real time that happened was in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter when PV ran off three straight to make it 10-8 with over 7 minutes left.  But Max’s third goal was the back-breaker, coming only 7 seconds later and LHP crusied the rest of the way by replying with their own four-goal run. Brian will get into it more in his column but for one day Max Parker was the national player of the year . . .   Benjamin – St. Thomas was also a similar story line. In the first quarter, as they have so often down the stretch, Benjamin was able to jump out to an early lead and sustain it the whole way. Benjamin’s offensive star players showed up in the first . . . McKenna Johnston with a hat trick, Andrew Packer 2G/1A and Ryan Silvester with 2G. All in the first quarter. And don’t forget Anthony Cicio, who managed fives saves in the first, ALL on great scoring chances, to give Benjamin the 7-1 early lead. Add four more key saves in the second as STA was able to get good lucks then too and you have the recipe for the halftime score of 8-2.  This is a wholly different ballgame if Cicio does not come up big.  St. Thomas was able to only make one big run in the second half of the third quarter and got within 10-6 with :42 left on the clock in the third, scoring their fourth straight but just like in the first game a 3rd period goal was the back-breaker as Jeremy Stauffer, a really unsung hero this season, took a Christian Cropp feed just 22 seconds later to put the lead back to 5 before the third period ended. Throw in the resilient Benjamin defense, led by Jerry O’Connors’ All-American-deserving performance and here we are. There’s an old lacrosse saying . . . ‘next up’. Pretty self-explanatory for Benjamin right now. Which brings us down to tonight’s final. Assuming the weather cooperates.   Tune back in at 1:00pm for those thoughts!   1:00pm   Well, the weather has cooperated so far this afternoon . . . light rain, although some heavier stuff is on the horizon.  From the high press box I can actually SEE the horizon and the southwest direction does show darker clouds with some more rain but as long as there is no thunder/lightning the girls should be ready to go at 3:00pm. Wells is kindly on the way over with some food.  I’ve been the lone press holdout here, although some one did say the PB Post might call the FHSAA to ask when the Final Four is being held. Kind of peaceful . . . a couple of IMG Academy kids showed up in the press box and we talked a little about their season.  They did indicate that playing in 19 degree-weather in New Jersey was kind of tough if you grow up in Florida. Kids, if that is the toughest thing you do you are blessed! As we get closer to championship game time I’ll continue to update this ‘blog’. Meanwhile, check out the pictures from STA-Benjamin with a little surprise thrown in!   1:30pm   Starting to think about the boy’s final. Quite the contrast in the two teams.  LHP is now the hunted, not the hunter.  So far they’ve made the transition pretty smoothly. Benjamin now assumes the role of the hunter. Benjamin has never been this far as a varsity program, LHP has set up a second home here lately.   LHP’s offense is dominated at the midfield as they try to run the middies into positions where they can get off 5-10 yard wind-ups. Benjamin’s offense tends to favor more possession and uses the entire field. LHP does not have the same firepower up front.  There is no Andrew Packer on LHP.  Game-planning him will test Coach Spaulding’s vast lacrosse expertise. LHP’s middies are deceptively physical and they have quite a knack for creating shooting space by leaning into a defender and getting them off balance just a little, allowing them to get their hands free. Benjamin’s defensive middies play with a bulldog mentality and the defense is particularly strong at winning 50/50 ground balls.  They need to come through that way to give themselves the best opportunity to win. One interesting facet of this game is that unlike the past few years LHP has had to make changes to their back 4.  This year the defense was less experienced coming in and gave up more goals earlier in the season than in past years.  While the defense statistically tightened up as the season went on it still has had periods when it showed vulnerability and Benjamin’s offense has come on late in the season. When these two teams played earlier in the year it was only the second game of the season for both, so I really don’t think that either team will either resemble or be able to implement too much from that game. One interesting thing from that first game was when Benjamin utilized Packer against Parker on the faceoffs.  Packer won three of four and that might be a little ‘held in pocket’ idea later in the game. I’ll be back later with some thoughts as we get closer to game time. Meanwhile the girls have come out and gotten some practice time on the practice fields so we are getting closer to actually playing.  The weather is still cooperating with intermittent showers but nothing heavy.   2:57pm   We are starting to play in the first girl’s game! Ponte Vedra vs. Olympia Good luck to both!   5:00pm   Ready for our second girl’s game, with Ponte Vedra already punching their ticket with a win over Olympia. Vero Beach the heavy favorite in this game.   5:53pm   Vero 9-2 at the half. The sun also rose in the east today. Not much to write about. Time to check out my favorite pre-game site:  The LHP yellow Mears bus, with the pre-game spread laid out. Oops, VB scored again.   6:09   12-4 Vero cruising 14 minutes left   7:31   About a half hour to game time. Talked with Shane Rye a couple of minutes, seemed a little wound up . . . understandably so. Griffin Bowie is out tonight so I’ll have a guest in the press box.  Typical polite kid, as long as he doesn’t try to call me ‘Sir’ we’ll be okay! Officials out on the field, weather has cooled substantially since the front went through, maybe 70 degrees by game time or cooler. Both teams are now out on the field. Met the Jacobs of Benjamin and the Wolfsons of LHP as well as the Parker family.  All friendly with each other. Daisy has promised me that next season there will be Vichysoisse at a Benjamin game so to all the other schools interested in the first ever 8×10 signed Lee Roggenburg picture (now there’s a collectible if I ever get famous!), start planning now . . . Benjamin in the dark blue with orange numbers and LHP in the white with red numbers. (Coach Moriarty, take note . . .) Atmosphere is anticipatory.   7:57pm   7 minutes to game time! Teams lining up for the anthem and introductions Believe it or not, the sun came out 5 minutes ago off to the horizon . . . the lacrosse Gods are smiling on Bradenton!   8:05   Game time!  Players shaking hands in the middle. Let’s get it on!