by Tom Utescher
In Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s first game back from spring break, senior Jack Lamb and junior Mac McLaughlin used a variation of the old high-low basketball play to have McLaughlin score two critical goals, the first sending SCH into overtime against visiting Hun School last Tuesday, and the second securing an 8-7 victory for the Blue Devils.
Junior C.J. Sweitzer also scored twice, and the Devils received single goals from seniors Brendan Clark, Zach Messerle and Parker Popky and from junior Matt Bown. Popky’s sophomore brother, Bern, recorded four saves in goal as SCH rebounded from an early two-goal deficit.
“We started down two goals and we’ve talked to the team about not starting slow, but today they fought back and played hard the entire game,” remarked head coach Mike DelGrande. “Hun has a great program and good kids, and it was important for us to get this win, especially with us starting league play on Friday.”
The Blue Devils had begun to play official non-league games in the middle of March, starting out with the top-ranked team in North America, Ontario’s Hill Academy.
“We lost to them 12-5, but it was a 5-3 game at the half,” DelGrande related.
Some more challenging outings followed, including a 10-5 loss to La Salle High School. On the last weekend of spring break, the Devils broke through into the win column.
“We had two good wins in Maryland,” DelGrande said, “and we had a great practice on Monday.”
On Tuesday, it was soon clear that a third straight victory wouldn’t be easy to come by, as Hun went up 2-0 in less than three minutes thanks to freshman Grant Hanson and junior Jake Keller. With under five minutes remaining, a ball fired by Sweitzer appeared to enter the cage and bounce back out, but the officials didn’t see it that way. The count was still 2-0 at the end of the quarter after Popky saved a promising late shot by the visitors.
Popky has gone the distance in goal in recent games after alternating halves early on with sophomore Delaney Sweitzer (sister of C.J.), who is coming back off of a knee injury that knocked her out of action in 2016.
Less than 90 seconds into the second quarter SCH was on the board, as Messerle wound up from about 15 yards out on the left and scored unassisted.
On an offensive foray by Hun around the middle of the period, Popky had advanced out of the crease while the Raiders threatened to sneak in behind him, but he rushed back and tumbled down into the goal mouth to prevent the visitors from scoring.
Instead, Popky’s brother Parker would notch a goal at the other end of the field with 3:58 remaining in the first half. Hun keeper Gib Versfeld (12 saves total) blocked the attempt initially, but Popky’s shot had enough juice that the ball spun into the cage. A little over a minute later, Springside Chestnut Hill went ahead for the first time on a transition sequence, with senior Malcolm Glendinning bringing the ball up through the middle and delivering it to Clark (a Wagner College recruit), who scored right on the crease.
The Blue Devils staved off an attempt by Hun to tie the bout right at the end of the half, and SCH led 3-2 at the break.
Glendinning, a long-stick middie who will play for Boston University, forms part of a defensive unit that includes seniors Tyson Hugee and Matt Rahill (Maryland) and junior Jordan Young.
“Our defense has been doing a great job and they did it again today,” DelGrande commented. “They’re experienced and very solid back there, and Malcolm is all over the field; he’s got an engine that doesn’t quit.
“Our offense is starting to click, though we still have a ways to go,” the SCH skipper continued, noting that there can be a tendency to turn straightforward shot attempts into complicated ones. “We’re not as efficient as we need to be.”
In the third quarter the momentum swung back to the Raiders, who put up three goals in the period while Bown’s marker provided the lone point for SCH. The Blue Devils’ Sweitzer scored a minute-and-a-half into the fourth frame to get the hosts back even at 5-5, and after that the scoreboard seesawed through the rest of the period.
Two goals by the Warriors were sandwiched around the second goal of the day by SCH’s Sweitzer, and the last of these three markers put Hun up 7-6 with just 1:35 remaining in regulation play. Gaining possession of the ball and taking it into their attack zone, the Blue Devils called time-out with 49 ticks to go.
Lamb had the ball out on the right wing when play was restarted, and he looped over into the middle of the field to the top of the offensive set.
McLaughlin, who’s made a verbal commitment to the U.S. Naval Academy, cut to the crease and received Lamb’s pass straight down the middle. McLaughlin cashed in for a 7-7 tie with 39 seconds left, and after his teammate Glendinning won the subsequent face-off, the game proceeded into a four-minute sudden-victory overtime period.
SCH gained possession of the ball at the beginning of the extra session, and the issue was decided quickly as Hun was unable to prevent the Blue Devils from scoring according to the same script (and using the same actors) that produced their seventh goal just minutes earlier.
From up top, Lamb dumped the ball inside to set up another McLaughlin goal from the goalie’s doorstep with only 49 seconds expired. SCH had completed the pre-league portion of the season on a three-game win streak.
UPDATE: The Blue Devils extended their string of victories to four games by defeating GA in Friday’s Inter-Ac League opener, 10-3.