When the top-seeded Conestoga boys' lacrosse team fell behind a charged-up Central Bucks East, 3-1, last Thursday night in the second quarter of the District 1 final at Radnor, Pioneers coach Brian Samson knew there was no reason to panic.

The situation just called for a discussion at halftime.

"We were dropping too many balls and not playing the game the way we should have been," Samson said. "I told them they would regret it if they didn't give it their best shot.

"There was an emotional component that was missing, too. We needed to get excited."

In the third period, all the pieces began to come together, and in the excitement, the Pioneers (21-1) scored five goals in the third quarter and went on to capture their third straight district crown, 10-4.

Samson is hoping the excited response is a little quicker in coming when the defending PIAA champs play Cumberland Valley at 5 p.m. Wednesday at West Chester Henderson in their first-round state game.

It will mark Conestoga's third straight appearance in the state tourney since the PIAA began sanctioning the sport.

The Pioneers will be one of six boys' teams from District 1 and District 12 to open state play. On the girls' side, District 1 champ Downingtown East leads a contingent of eight teams from the local districts looking for a state title.

While Southeastern Pennsylvania teams have tended to dominate boys' and girls' lacrosse because they have been playing the game longer, Samson said his team wasn't taking Cumberland Valley, the fourth-place squad from District 3, lightly.

"I know they have a 14-9 record, but I don't know much else about them," Samson said. "I'll have to find out as much as I can [Tuesday]. We'll make sure we do what we do best."

One first-round boys' game will feature two District 1 teams. Central Bucks East, the district runner-up, will meet Ridley, the No. 5 team, at 7 p.m. at Henderson.

St. Joseph's Prep, the District 12 representative, will face Pennsbury, District 1's No. 4 team, at 6 p.m. at Plymouth Whitemarsh. Downingtown West, District 1's third-place team, will play Manheim Township, the District 3 champ, at 7 p.m. at Mechanicsburg.

Downingtown East (21-1), which reached the second round of the PIAA girls' tourney last season before losing to eventual champion Radnor, will open play at 7 p.m. at West Chester East against Upper Dublin, which the Cougars beat, 12-6, in the district quarterfinals.

"This district [District 1] is very tough and unpredictable," Cougars coach Caitlin Barbakoff said. "We recognize that Upper Dublin is well-coached, and we'll have to bring our 'A' game."

Another all-District 1 pairing will feature Garnet Valley, the district runner-up, against Harriton, the fifth-place team, at 5 p.m. at W.C. East. Catholic League champion and District 12 rep Archbishop Carroll will meet Boyertown, the District 1 sixth-place team, at 4 p.m. at Plymouth Whitemarsh.

Springfield (Delco) and Great Valley will do some traveling. The Cougars will play District 11 champ Emmaus at 7 at Nazareth, and Great Valley will face District 3 champ Manheim Township at 5 at Cumberland Valley.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.