Conestoga Uses 7-0 Run to Down La Salle for PIAA Crown

By Chris Goldberg,

HERSHEY Jeff Chu scored four goals and Conestoga used a 7-0 run from late in the first period until the final quarter to claim a 10-6 victory over La Salle, Saturday in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic (PIAA) boys' lacrosse championship game at Hershey Park Stadium. The victory gave the District 1 champion Pioneers (24-2) their first state title and revenge on the team that defeated them last year in the state finals, 7-3.

"I think this was the perfect setting for us," said Conestoga face-off specialist Ryan Buttenbaum, who won 13 of 19 draws and scored once. "I think people were calling for a Springfield-Delco vs. Conestoga state championship game at the beginning of the year. But it was kind of nice to come back and have a revenge game against them (the Explorers)."

District 12 champion La Salle (21-3) scored three straight to take a 3-2 lead late in the first period. But then the onslaught began as the Pioneers kicked their vaunted transition game into gear.

First, Chu tied it with 50 seconds left in the period off a feed from Billy Flatley. Conestoga scored four more unanswered goals two by Jason Klunder and one each by Ryan Lord and Chu in the second period and then took a 9-3 lead on third-period goal by face-off specialist Ryan Buttenbaum to open the second half and Chu late in the period.

La Salle finally stopped the bleeding 3:21 into the final period on a goal by Christian Cardinal. The La Salle senior scored again with 2;45 to play and the Explorers closed the gap to 9-6 33 seconds later on a tally by Nick Cruice. But Conestoga iced it on a goal by Matt Smith with 1:42 to play.

The Pioneers entered the year as the prohibitive favorite to win the state title after returning much of its nucleus. They failed to repeat as Central League champions, but defeated Springfield-Delco to repeat as District 1 champion and peaked in the PIAA tourney.

"Coach (Brian Samson) said there is no pressure, just an opportunity," said Chu. "That really set it in mind for me. We knew we had an opportunity to come out here and work hard."

The Pioneers have an roster with 19 seniors, many of whom have played together since the beginning of their youth lacrosse careers and on through club lacrosse and high school. "To play with these guys since fourth grade when I picked it up it's going to be so hard next year," aid Chu. "Those guys over there are my best friends."

"We've all been together for so long," Buttenbaum added. "That chemistry has been building between us and we were able to put together a game today and finish it out the right way."

Conestoga went out early in the game as Peter Bowers and Chu scored goals in the first two minutes of play. But La Salle responded as Jack Bogorowski, Sean Coleman and Patrick Resch (three assists) each scored in a span of 4:34 to give the Explorers a 3-2 lead.

In last year's state title game, Conestoga went out to a 2-0 lead and saw La Salle storm back quickly. "A couple of us were thinking deja vu from last year," Buttenbaum said. "We went up, 2-0, and they came back to make it 2-0. We had to bite down and we came back and pumped like six in a row. I think that really says something about our game."

Also for Conestoga, goalie Peter Zonino made six saves and the defense of seniors Casey Ikeda and Austin Campbell and juniors Ben Karr and Brian Dailey (LSM) was standout after La Salle's initial offensive flurry.

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