Dragons back to final
After literally limping through preseason and much of the regular season with a nagging ankle injury, Lewisburg’s Joey Bhangdia is finally healthy and in his last two games, it has showed.
Bhangdia scored two more goals this postseason as Lewisburg, finally healthy, defeated Danville, 4-0, in the District 4 Class AA semifinals Tuesday night at Balls Mills. Lewisburg will play for the district championship Thursday at 7 back at Balls Mills against Midd-West.
Bhangdia scored four goals with two assists in the quarterfinals against Hughesville Saturday, a 7-0 win, and the senior is gaining back his all-state form from a season ago in which he scored 48 goals.
“I feel good, definitely happy that I’m returning to my form,” said Bhangdia, as he was stretching. “I think I’m playing a little bit better. We’re definitely coming together well as a team. I’m excited moving forward.”
“You’re starting to see the speed, the ability to cut and go with some pace again so it’s good to see,” said Lewisburg coach Skip Kratzer.
Lewisburg has battled various injuries to key positions all year but the Green Dragons were able to limp to a 17-1 regular season record with their only loss to District 6 Class AAAA champion State College. But now the defending state and district champions are getting healthy at the right time to try and defend their titles.
“We’re all finally healthy. This is the first time that everybody has been on the field all year really,” said Kratzer. “The last time we played them (Danville) we had half of Joey, we didn’t have Zach (Kratzer), we didn’t have Davis (Baylor). We’re just returning to health tonight with Wilson Fisher back, he played limited minutes so we’re just starting to get back and I think in that first half, our first half team last year would have put a lot more goals on the board. We’re just not quite there yet, we’re very close, we’re just where that finishing piece needs to come in.”
Bhangdia, who missed four games during the regular season, picked up right where he left off against Hughesville just 2:33 into the game as he scored on a corner kick. The ball was able to bend just enough into the goal and get through the scrum for the 1-0 lead.
“I was trying to score there,” Bhangdia said.
Lewisburg’s second goal was again off a corner as Bhangdia passed into Will Brock who dribbled down the baseline and found an open Nate Liscum for the 2-0 lead.
Both of Lewisburg’s first two goals were scored off corners and the Green Dragons could’ve had a few more goals in the first half off set pieces if not for some unlucky bounces. Lewisburg had seven corner kicks in the first half.
“I think we’re really dangerous off our set pieces, corners particularly,” Bhangdia said. “We work on them a lot in practice. We have a lot of guys that can go up and win the head balls and then put them away and that’s what happened this game.”
“There were a lot of opportunities there. It was clear that we were better on the set pieces tonight, that’s for sure,” Kratzer said. “I’m sure that was part of his (Danville coach Brian Dressler) halftime talk was that we can’t give up corner kicks.”
Bhangdia scored his second goal at 68:57 off another great pass from Brock, who set up Lewisburg’s fourth goal just 23 seconds later on an Adam Cole goal to make it 4-0. Brock had three assists in the game.
Lewisburg recorded its seventh straight shutout last night and is outscoring opponents 35-0 during that span. And even though Lewisburg is scoring four-plus goals with regularity, there is still room for improvement. Bhangdia missed three or four goals by inches on a few occasions but it doesn’t matter as long as the Green Dragons keep recording shutouts.
“We left a few on the table tonight,” Kratzer said. “I think the important thing is, you need one goal to win and zeros on the board. If we can continue to do like what we did last year, continue to play good team defense, keep putting clean sheets on, we’ll be just fine.”
Goals: Lewisburg- Joey Bhangdia (UA), 2:33; Nate Liscum (Will Brock), 39:10; Bhangdia (Brock), 68:57; Adam Cole (Brock), 69:20.
Shots: D 2, L 25. Shots on goal: D 0, L 12. Corners: D 1, L 9. Saves: D 8 (Braeden Eckard), L 0 (Ryan Ehmann).
Records: Lewisburg (19-1), Danville (12-5-2)
Next: Lewisburg vs. Midd-West at Balls Mills (Thu. 7)