Time To Look Back – The 2014 Final Four is Back! – Part One

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This is the first 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!  Here’s the first of the semifinals . . . 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.

Hope you enjoy our look back as written by Brian Davis!

 

Explosive Highlanders Get Past Ponte Vedra – Set to Play in 5th Straight Final

 

After a long long day of watching the rain we started two hours behind schedule and the story was how well the field drained (which it did!)

But then the story of this game became Max Parker and an explosive LHP midfield.

LHP’s first possession was thrown out of bounds but the PV clearing pass was picked off by a leaping Kyle Richbourg who snagged it with one hand.  Richbourg started to pull it out and set up the offense but he saw a seam open up in the PV defense as they looked to settle and he took it to the goal and scored 1:05 into the game.

The second face off gave us a glimpse into PV’s strategy to compete with LHP’s Face Off Specialist and Syracuse commit, Max Parker. Max won the face off and PV shut everyone off, setting up a one on one against Max and the pole for PV.  Max, who has shed weight, added speed, and vastly improved his stick work over the last year proved up to the task as he worked his way toward the goal and ended up getting a nice shot off that just missed over the cross bar.  It would be his only miss on the night.

LHP brought plenty of pressure on the defensive side but the Ponte Vedra middies were not about to back down and showed some good dodges of their own against that excellent LHP middie defense.

Cody Legeza got the ball on the wing for PV off to Sawicki’s right side.  He pumped once, made a nice dodge, and scored to tie it up at 1 each.

Both teams played excellent defense through most of the first quarter.  Take aways at both ends of the field and short fast possessions. Ground ball work paid off for Don Eidson as he picked up a GB deep in his offensive end and made a few quick steps to the goal and scored off the near post to give the Highlanders a 2-1 advantage.

Early in the quarter it looked like LHP had the advantage at the Face Off X with Parker and on the ride.  PV had trouble clearing the ball early but PV was winning defensively and was really neutralizing any attempt at settled offense the Highlanders tried to put together.

With 3:43 left in the first quarter Garrett Boyle took a feed from the wing and got off a quick shot to make it 2-2.

Parker won the ensuing face off and as they shut everyone else off he kept working and finally, after a lengthy one on one he shot and scored to make it 3-2 with 3:17 left.

Ponte Vedra looked to threaten late in the first quarter but with 2:00 left, Casey Wetzel made a great take away for the Highlanders and cleared the ball.  After a little over a minute Will Wolfson ran on the field, got the ball, hit the left alley and scored on a perfect shot to the far post and ran off the field.  He sure makes it look easy.

The quarter ended with a 4-2 lead for Lake Highland.  Max Parker ended up 7-0 at the face off X in the first quarter.  In fact, he would not lose a face off all night.

Parker won the opening face of the second quarter and rumbled down the field to score his second goal of the game.

After a PV take away the Sharks set up a good possession and moved the ball well. It ended with a Garrett Boyle feed from X to Cody Legeza who had some room on the wing.  Legeza finished to make it 5-3.  Minutes later the Highlanders tried to push the ball off of a restart at mid field.  PV’s defense made a nice play and knocked the pass down and the Sharks got it going back the other way.  The ensuing possession ended up with a hard, low, rolling shot from Logan Taucher from about 16 hards out to make it 5-4.

Throughout the half Ponte Vedra continued to play solid defense and create turnovers.  They often put outside pressure on the top side middies for LHP, baiting them down the middle where they would face quick doubles or even triple teams.  PV would get the ball and get it down the field usually getting good looks at the cage but Sawicki was just on fire and proved tough to get anything past.

With 1:32 left in the half Richbourg made a nice play on a high pass from Wolfson and was able to get off a great shot to make it 6-4 going into the half.

Collin Peaks ended the first half with a great save with :22 on the clock and a good clear.  In the first half PV played better defense and had more take aways but LHP countered that by owning the Face off X.  A couple of PV’s turnovers were in their defensive end and those tend to hurt a little more.  For Lake Highland, they are so explosive that PV’s excellent defense in the settled situations was not quite enough.  Parker had two goals off the face off and Eidson scored one in an unsettled situation from an offensive GB.   Richbourg scored one off the busted clear and Will Wolfson’s goal was right from the substitution so 5 of LHP’s 6 first half goals were  unsettled and  none were were the result of long, lengthy possessions.  At the other end of the field PV was having success with the settled offense and all four of their goals were the result of setting up the offense and working the ball, finding good match ups and taking good high percentage shots.

Parker won the second half opening face off on a procedure call and Will Wolfson came in and scored.  He got the ball, made a quick move and hit the left alley and scored on a nearly perfect shot.  His first step out of his dodge is so fast that he can create space with simple plays.  Plus his shooting is as good as any high school player I have seen.

Lake Highland was doing nothing fancy through the third quarter. Dodge, run, shoot.  They can do all three very well.  They threw lots of rubber toward the cage.  Ponte Vedra looked great at the other end but unfortunately for the Sharks, so did Sawicki.  But PV stayed very busy and stuck to the plan and continued to create opportunities.  When Sawicki knocked down a poor angle shot Miles Silva was right where he needed to be and closed the gap to just two goals making it 7-5 with 5:30 left in the quarter.

PV continued to create opportunities.  A Ponte Vedra D-Pole picked off a shot out of mid air and ran it down the field.  He took a great shot that hit the cross bar.  PV kept possession and made a great possession, got a couple of shots but eventually turned it over.  LHP got it down the field and in seconds Reid Thedford dodges, shoots, and scores.

Conner Aniello and Thedford each added another goal to make it 10-5 Lake Highland.  At the end of the quarter a rule many players are not aware of came into play.  Once an official asks a player for his stick for the stick check the player can’t touch the head.  When the LHP player was asked for his stick he tapped it with his palm and drew a flag.

Ponte Vedra, who has very good EMO came out to start the fourth with possession and an EMO.  They made it count as Legeza had the ball at the point and fed it down to Miles Silva in the hole and he was able to finish to make it 10-6 early in the fourth.

The Highlanders drew a slash after the ensuing face off but Peaks grabbed a high shot and PV was able to kill the penalty to keep the difference at four.  About a minute later PV found themselves with another EMO and scored again.   This time it was Eric Applegate with the finish and the difference was three with 8:17 remaining in the game.

Jason Randolph took the ball on a PV possession shortly after that and moved across the top of the box and let a lefty shot go on the run.  The blistering shot beat Sawicki high and the place went nuts.  Ponte Vedra had continued to hang around and was now within two goals and we had a game midway through the fourth quarter.

But Max Parker quieted things down a little bit.  He took the face off straight down the middle and buried one for his hat trick  and got the spread back to three.

That would start a four goal run by the Highlanders that included goals by Jackson Colling, Cole Vaughan, and Reid Thedford.

With the score 14-8 and short on time RJ Garcia made a fantastic effort with multiple dodges and sliced his way through the middle to score a total effort goal and made it 14-9.  That is where the game would end and conclude a great season for the Ponte Vedra Sharks.

Max Parker was perfect at the X, something you don’t see very often.  He was 28-0 and scored a hat trick and only turned the ball over one time.  Clearly, a 28 possession deficit is tough to make up even with the strong defense that PV showed last night.  Ponte Vedra was clearly competitive at every other aspect of the game.  They didn’t turn the ball over too much, they had good shots and worked their offense.  It is probably fair to say that they had more success setting up and running their offense than LHP did.  But Sawicki just does not give any thing up easy.  And the middies for LHP just kept dodging and shooting and dodging and shooting.

The LHP victory sets up a Lake Highland vs Benjamin match up for the State Championship game. Lake Highland and Benjamin met in the second game of the season.  LHP won the game 10-6 and was part of a 1-3 start for Benjamin.  I saw Benjamin play in the first game of the season and they are a much different team right now than they were early.  However, they are a little more banged up than LHP.

We are looking forward to the goalie match up tonight! No surprise that two of the states best goalies, Sawicki and Cicio, are meeting in biggest game of the year.