Buoyed by its near-impenetrable defense, La Salle will try for its first Keystone Cup championship since 2004.

The Explorers, who yielded an average of only four goals per game en route to the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (EPSLA) title, will take on Manheim Township Friday at 7:30 at the Turkey Hill Venue, at Comet Complex, in Millersville.

Manheim Township claimed the Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (CPSLA) crown. The Blue Streaks advanced to the state final with an 11-4 rout of Mount Lebanon, from the Western Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (WPSLA).

La Salle's defense is anchored by Niko Amato, a junior goalie with spectacular hand speed. In Tuesday's EPSLA final, a 4-3 win over Malvern Prep, the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder made 11 saves.

The stalwarts in front of Amato include Tucker Durkin, Tyler Houchins, Mike Noone, Eric Heisner, Kevin Farrington, Gordie Wells and Derek Bogorowski.

That group, guided by La Salle defensive coordinator Tony Resch, will try to limit the production of Manheim Township's Chris Zielinski, a Colgate-bound midfielder with 65 goals and 26 assists.

Records

Manheim Township: 19-8.

La Salle: 30-2.

Coaches

Manheim Township: Rich Lefever.

La Salle: Bill Leahy.

How they got here

Manheim Township: Beat Mount Lebanon, 11-4, to advance to state final.

La Salle: Beat Malvern Prep, 4-3, in EPSLA championship game.

Last trip to state final

Manheim Township: In 2006, the Blue Streaks lost to Malvern Prep, 15-5.

La Salle: In 2004, La Salle downed Shady Side, 13-5, at HersheyPark Stadium.

Notable: Since the inception of the Keystone Cup in 2000, a team from the Eastern part of the state has always won the crown.

Knockout punch

Manheim Township: In addition to Zielinski, the Blue Streaks have scoring threats in junior midfielder Dan Wertz (52 goals, 16 assists) and junior attackman Conner DuBois (35, 35). Freshman Quint Miller has eight goals in the last two games, including four against Mount Lebanon. Senior Chris Gorham is a three-year starter in goal.

La Salle: Junior Peter Schwartz, a midfielder and attack, had eight goals in the EPSLA playoffs. He had two in the final versus Malvern Prep and three in a 7-6, semifinal win over Haverford School. Also dangerous are Conrad Ridgway, Westy Hopkins and the Forster bothers, Randy and Kevin.

Analysis

Manheim Township is fairly athletic. But the Blue Streaks have nowhere near the depth as La Salle. And they have yet to face a goalie like Amato. That translates into another win for Eastern Pennsylvania. La Salle, 9-3.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or robrien@phillynews.com.