Like so many title games, the boys’ PIAA Class 3A lacrosse championship between District 12 champion La Salle and District 1 champion Conestoga didn’t truly begin until the final period of play. After surrendering a three-goal fourth-quarter lead, the Explorers scored twice within the final 1 minute, 25 seconds of regulation to defeat their rival Conestoga, 7-5.
A hat trick from senior attacker Zac Coar included the game-winning goal, but it took until the game’s final seconds to decide on a champion.
Nearly seven minutes elapsed in the first quarter before Conestoga’s Will Schnorr opened the scoring with his 72nd goal of the season. Over the course of the rest of the first half, though, La Salle scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead into halftime.
Although Conestoga entered the second half with ground to cover in order to make the game competitive, it was La Salle that first imposed itself on the game. Three-goal lead in hand, the Explorers were content to wait for the perfect scoring opportunity while maintaining possession and making the Pioneers chase the ball.
But with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter, Schnorr again found the back of the net to cut the deficit to two before the teams headed to the last quarter of the season.
“They had the ball most of the first half, and we knew we couldn’t come back if they had possession,” Conestoga head coach Brody Bush said. “We played the game we play only for the second half. If we played the whole game like that, maybe the outcome could’ve been different.”
La Salle stretched its lead to 5-2 on a goal from senior Chris Mockaitis, but Conestoga wasn’t finished. Brendan Murphy and Julian Grove scored to make it 5-4 before a cross-checking penalty on the Explorers’ Shane Cassel put Conestoga in a man-up situation with 4:39 left to play. Nine seconds later, Pioneer defender Scott Smith capitalized to tie the game for the first time since the opening quarter.
With the game trending toward overtime, Coar returned to the spotlight to make sure the championship ended on time. Darting in front of the crease and diving in front of Conestoga goalie Mick Lee, he gave La Salle a 6-5 lead with only 1:25 left.
After running down most of the clock and under heavy Conestoga pressure, La Salle’s Danny Mallee scored with 25.6 seconds remaining to seal the victory. But for head coach William Leahy, the outcome was never in doubt.
“That’s the way we do it," he joked. "Weren’t you there last week when we were down six in the fourth quarter?”
La Salle 2 2 0 3 — 7
Conestoga 1 0 1 3 — 5
LS: Zac Coar 3, Rob Foster 1, Shane Osborne 1, Chris Mockaitis 1, Danny Mallee 1