Strath Haven tops Springfield Delco in boys' lacrosse PIAA state quarterfinals

With about 1 minute, 29 seconds separating Strath Haven from a quarterfinal victory against defending PIAA Class 2A boys’ lacrosse state champion Springfield Delco, Panthers coach Jeff Hewlings called a shrewd timeout.

Most in attendance Saturday afternoon at West Chester Henderson could have guessed who would get the ball.

“Every time there’s a little time left, we need possession or we need a goal, Coach always tells me, ‘You’re picking it up. You may be exhausted, but you got to do what you got to do,’ ” said senior Jeffrey Conner, who finished with three goals. “That’s what we did.”

All Conner did was split a double team, jet to the net and fire an important insurance goal that eventually led to the Panthers’ 12-9 victory.

“This is just a big win for the program,” Hewlings said.

Later, he added, “It’s fun to coach these guys because they give you everything they have, and we ask for a lot … and we got it against a really good team.”

Strath Haven (18-5) advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals at a time and site to be determined and will face the winner of the game between District 3’s Palmyra and District 7’s Mars.

Junior midfielder Nicky Palermo scored the Panthers’ first three goals. Fellow junior Ethan Belville added three of his own.

Palermo’s twin brother, Vincey, finished the game with nine saves in his customary role as the second-half goaltender. Senior starter Will Brake needed to save only a single shot.

Michael Tulskie led the Cougars with three goals. Kyle Long, the University of Maryland-bound all-American, added two more and three assists.

Springfield had won the last two PIAA state titles. In 2016, the Cougars wore the crown outright. They also won it last year when lacrosse was divided into two classifications.

The Panthers hadn’t beaten the Cougars since Conner’s sophomore year, an early regular-season matchup, he said.

That same Strath Haven team became the first ever to advance to the state semifinals but lost to eventual champ Springfield.

The Panthers also fell, 16-10, at Springfield earlier this season.

On Saturday, however, Conner and Co. applied pressure early, jumping out to a 4-1 lead, a 6-2 edge at the end of the first quarter and a 10-3 advantage at the half.

“We just wanted to come out, step on them first and say that we’re going to be here the whole game, and we’re not going to let up,” said Conner, who finished with three goals.

Camera icon H. RUMPH JR.
The Strath Haven boys celebrate.

Senior Hunter Clements dominated the faceoffs early, which helped seize control. Springfield (18-6) did itself few favors with unforced turnovers and rushed shots on offense.

The Cougars managed a modicum of momentum with a 6-1 run that began early in the third frame and continued until Long got them to within 11-9, with 4:51 remaining.

So, when Conner got the ball late, he knew exactly what needed to be done.

“Definitely attack,” he said. “Two-goal game with five minutes left, and I knew if we didn’t score another goal they were definitely going to tie the game, so that goal was definitely needed.”

Strath Haven     6   4   1   1 —  12
Springfield        2   1   3   3 —   9

SH — Jeffrey Conner 3, Nicky Palermo 3, Ethan Bellville 3, Liam Carney, Chris Rosini, Ibo Pio. SD — Michael Tulskie 3, Kyle Long 2, Ben Garcia 2, Jack Spence, Aidan Shandley.

Saves: SH — Will Brake 1, Vincey Palermo 9; SD — Jim Donegan 10.