Ridgewood upends Chatham in TOC
Ridgewood and Chatham had not played each other this season, but definitely traveled similar paths through bright, goal-affirming peaks and dim, cold valleys.
When they climbed the high roads, they worked in unison, showcased competence on both sides of the field and engineered some stunning victories. At the low end, both experienced some losses they would probably rather not discuss.
When the two teams finally met, it was easy to see that the similarities weren't only found in their records, which were identical, or their performances against common opponents. If not for a span of 3:13, the battle was about as closely contested as it could have been without players mistaking this night's opponents with the buddies they covered every day in practice.
But 3:13 can be a lot of time in lacrosse, and fourth-seeded Ridgewood used it to close out each half with a minor burst and pull out a 6-3 victory over fifth-seeded Chatham in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions Saturday night at Basilone Field in Bridgewater.
Blake Feagles and Jack Alllard each scored in the last 1:29 of the first half to snap a 2-2 tie and Connor O'Shea and Max Luing connected in the final 1:44 of the game to extend a 4-3 lead and cement a spot in the semifinals against top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan, No. 1 in The MSG Varsity Power Rankings, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kean University in Union.
Bridgewater is the defending T of C champion. Eighth-ranked Ridgewood (17-7) will be seeking its first trip to the T of C final.
"Those late goals are very important. Like in the fourth quarter, we're up 4-3 and playing well," Feagles said. The senior middie scored two goals for the second straight game and for the fourth time in the last six.
"I thought we had it, but anything can happen. Those late goals really sealed the deal," he said. "They put the nail in the coffin. You don't score those goals, they still have momentum and they can score."
The final score was a bit deceiving since the sixth goal was an empty netter with :30 to go as Chatham tried to force a turnover. But the fifth goal was no gift. O'Shea capped off a crisp possession when he blasted in a shot from seven yards out off a pass by Peter Reuter.
"Clutch, very clutch," senior defenseman Trip Telesco said after holding 13th-ranked Chatham (16-8) to its lowest goal total of the season (also three goals in a loss to Seton Hall Prep). "Our offense has been disciplined the whole year; work the ball around just waiting for the right opportunity for shots."
Feagles spotted a choice opportunity from high the box late in the first half and with the score tied, 2-2. He swept to the right wing and fired in a 16-yarder for a 3-2 edge with 1:29 to go. A more painful goal for Chatham came 1:20 later when Allard retrieved a ground ball in the middle of the box, then fought through a wall of defenders and scored from six yards out to open a 4-2 lead.
"We had three guys on him and he made an individual play," Chatham head coach Tony Calandra said. "We needed to make an individual play, and that was the difference."
Ridgewood goalie Noah Pounds came up with a few spectacular individual plays, too, particularly with two split saves in the third quarter to hold Chatham to one goal that period-- a sizzling outside shot by Kyle Howard-Johnson to close to within 4-3 with 2:45 to go. Chatham also piped three well-placed shots that quarter.
"We were trying to be too precise," Calandra said. "I think we needed to make a couple more individual plays. But the second half was much better than the first-half effort. I thought we were aggressive in the second half."
Pounds made four of his seven saves in the second half, including one in the fourth quarter to thwart a fast break with 6:05 remaining. His Maroons led just 4-3 at the time.
"Noah played great the whole game. It was mostly on him," Telesco said. "For me as a defenseman, it just gives me lenience to be able to go out and work on my guy, knowing that Noah is in between the pipes and that he'll make great saves no matter what."
Chatham goalie Corey Fritts also played a strong game with nine saves, six in the second half. His club received one goal apiece from Thomas Guida and David Gill.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS