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Lewisburg boys defeat Oley Valley to secure spot in PIAA Class AA championship game

OLEY – The excitement was building on the sidelines as the scoreboard ticked just under a minute to play. Coaches and players were smiling with each other and a few hugs were given. The seniors on the field and bench were perhaps just a tad more excited than their teammates.

For the past four years, the seniors have been working toward getting to the state championship. On Tuesday night, that group of seniors finally broke through. The wind was howling at Oley Valley High School as the temperatures dropped into the low 30s. But that bitter cold and stinging wind wasn’t going to damper Lewisburg in this moment.

Lewisburg defeated Oley Valley, 2-0, to clinch a berth in the PIAA Class AA championship. It will be the program’s fourth championship game appearance, and third since 2015.

“It feels great. This definitely was a huge step that we needed and this senior class needed to take,” Lewisburg coach Ben Kettlewell said as he held a Hershey chocolate bar. “This was big and they know they want the next step as well.”

That next step is the state championship game on Saturday morning against District 7 champion Deer Lakes at 1:30 p.m. in Hershey.

Lewisburg dominated Oley Valley for all 80 minutes, a credit to the Green Dragons’ back line that didn’t get subbed out. It was a matchup decision Kettlewell decided on which worked. Oley Valley managed just two shots on goal the entire game, one in each half.

“It’s a variety of things. … It’s my midfield tracking back, it’s my wings doing their job, it’s our offense putting pressure on them so they sit back a little bit. It’s a variety of things that come into play,” Kettlewell said of Lewisburg’s possession game. “It’s first game I didn’t sub my defense. I felt with their size, this was one of my bigger lineups in back, I felt it was needed and they played all 80 minutes and did a fantastic job.”

The Green Dragons scored first with 22 minutes, 59 seconds to play in the first half.

Ben Liscum got the ball in Lewisburg’s own territory and sent a ball up through the defense into the Lynx’s defensive third to Dieffenderfer, who got it and fired a shot as Oley Valley keeper Evan Solley tried to slide and block it about 30 yards out. Dieffenderfer’s shot was a slow, rolling ball to the far left post, but no Oley Valley player was near to clear it as it rolled in for the 1-0 goal about halfway through the half.

Eleven minutes later, it was Liscum who got inside the 18 and created some magic with his footwork. Liscum had three defenders on him and still managed to get the ball past them and to his left, where he let go a beautiful high shot to the upper right 90 that no goalie could get for the 2-0 lead going into the half.

“It was huge. Ben Liscum’s a huge player, a great player, and he made a big play in a big game,” Kettlewell said. “I was impressed by him and what he was able to do today. He stepped up.”

Liscum nearly sent in another goal in the first half. Liscum was right outside the 6-yard box and tried to sneak a shot under the crossbar, only to see it hit and fall directly down as Solley caught it before it could cross the line.

James Koconis had an excellent look in the first half with 15:16 to play. Koconis got the ball roughly 10 yards out and had a 1-v-1 look with Solley in goal as he tried to sneak a shot toward the right post. It was a solid attempt, but went just wide by two feet to the right.

The Lynx weren’t able to capitalize on many chances. Oley Valley didn’t get the ball into Lewisburg’s attacking third much and when they did, the Green Dragons played excellent defense to prevent any quality shot attempts.

Of the Lynx’s two shots on goal, one came from outside the 18 in the first half and the second came from just inside the 18. In total, the Lynx fired four shots.

“They’re a big, physical, kind of direct team that’s gonna put pressure on us. We weren’t going to have a whole lot of time on the ball individually, so we needed to make sure we fought quicker, moved off the ball, gave ourselves some options and put ourselves in the right position to make some plays and do it collectively as an 11,” Kettlewell said. “It’s the best mindset I’ve ever seen a team walk in with. They knew what they had to do.”

Dieffenderfer was a force for Lewisburg and had all four of Lewisburg’s second-half shots as the Green Dragons tried to put in another goal for some breathing room on the scoreboard.

In total, Lewisburg fired 20 shots, 10 of which were on goal.

Oley Valley’s best chance at scoring a goal came with 5:46 left to play when Alex LaVerdure fired a shot from 15 yards out. LaVerdure’s shot went just high over the crossbar by about a foot.

Lewisburg 2, Oley Valley 0

(PIAA Class AA semifinals)

L–Jack Dieffenderfer (Ben Liscum), 22:59. L–Liscum, 11:44.

Shots: L 10, OV 2. Corners: L 12 OV 1. Saves: L 2 (Tony Burns), OV 7 (Evan Solley).

Records: Lewisburg (21-0), Olley Valley (18-2-1). Next game: Lewisburg vs. Deer Lakes, Saturday, PIAA Class AA championship in Hershey, 1:30 p.m.

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