Lewisburg boys look to return to final
Everyone on the Lewisburg’s roster and the coaching staff knows that tonight’s PIAA Class AA semifinal game will be anything but easy.
It’s going to be tough and physical. In so many words, Lewisburg will be in for a battle for a long 80 minutes. Then again, that’s what one expects in the state semifinals.
But Lewisburg’s ready for that. The Green Dragons are battle tested. Lewisburg played a solid 80 physical minutes against New Hope-Solebury in the quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon. Rewind to the District 4 championship game and Lewisburg found themselves in a very physical battle against Midd-West that went into two overtime periods to decide.
So it’s nothing Lewisburg is afraid of, nor is it anything new for the team.
“We expect a battle. Lancaster Mennonite is a quality program and they’ve had a very good year. So we expect quite a battle,” Lewisburg coach Skip Kratzer said after beating New Hope-Solebury.
And those past few tough games are beneficial.
“It’s kind of funny, when we get out of districts, then the play is completely different. Midd-West is very physical off the ball, but (New Hope-Solebury) was a pretty physical game as well, so that prepares us for that physicality and then we get out here and get into some teams that really have some skilled players that really make us work defensively,” Kratzer said. “It certainly is an eye-opener at times.”
“Midd-West is always a brawl, even since middle school,” Lewisburg freshman Ben Liscum said. “They’re always physical. That helps. Seems like we endured it. We did well.”
Lewisburg is riding an impressive postseason winning streak, currently at 19 playoff wins dating back to the 2015 district tournament, which also includes back-to-back state championships the past two years. And Lewisburg’s current senior class — Sam Miller, Tommy Bhangdia, Reese Moore, Austin Gerlinski, Mateo Bernas and Nate Liscum — has won 92 games in their career.
The Green Dragons hope to make it 20 in a row — and 93 wins for the seniors – while getting back to Hershey for a third consecutive state championship when they face Lancaster Mennonite tonight at Central Dauphin Middle School at 7:30.
The Blazers will be Lewisburg’s toughest test yet this year, a team with an impressive 23-1 record, including an undefeated 14-0 mark within the Lancaster-Lebanon Section 3 conference.
Lancaster Mennonite senior Matthew Lynch leads the Blazers with 34 goals. Ben Lefever has 19 goals and Tyler Wagner has 15 goals and a team-best 17 assists.
Lewisburg has only allowed 11 goals all year.
In the last two state tournament games, Lewisburg has had a huge boost from freshman James Koconis, who’s come off the bench to dish off three assists in the first state tournament game and then added two in a 3-0 shutout over New Hope-Solebury.
Koconis has fed the ball to teammates from all over the field, making it look fairly easy despite playing against solid competition.
“It’s great (having Koconis), especially when he’s a freshman. I have four more years with him,” Liscum said. “He’s a surprise coming off the bench. He’s very speedy. No one expects him coming in to just play the ball through. I don’t know a single guy out there faster than him.”
“He’s really shown up this postseason. That’s five assists for him in two games. These guys don’t realize freshman are supposed to kind of crumble under the pressure,” Kratzer joked.
Liscum and Bhangdia have scored 24 and 21 goals, respectively, this season to lead the Green Dragons’ offense, but they’re just two of many that can find the back of the net.
Against New Hope-Solebury, the Green Dragons got three goals from three players and have shown all year they’re capable of spreading the ball around.
“That’s how it is all season,” Liscum said. “Even Anders (Dollard), our fast wings, our defensive mids, we all come together with great counter attacks.”
Lancaster Mennonite has scored 103 goals so far this year and, much like Lewisburg, has a solid defensive unit that has only yielded 13 goals all year. The Blazers also have only allowed two goals in four games this year and have only allowed four goals since September 27, a stretch the Blazers have gone 13-1 and posted nine shutouts in that time span.