CB East Lax Falls to Avon Grove in State Semis

Central Bucks East fell to District One 6A champion Avon Grove 7-5 in the PIAA Class 3A state semifinals on Tuesday.

They walked off the field in silence, a marked contrast to the euphoric celebration at the final horn of Saturday’s upset of nationally-ranked La Salle. The Patriots’ dream of playing for a PIAA Class 3A title ended Tuesday as a result of their season-ending loss to district runner-up Avon Grove.

“I think we came out a lot slower this game,” senior captain Ryan Brown said. “I think we were still riding off the confidence of the La Salle game.

“I think a lot of the guys were – ‘Oh, we can beat anyone now,’ and we were not able to come back down to earth. Avon (Grove) is a great team. We played them three times this season, and all three times they’ve beaten us. Their defense is great, their attack is great. I wish them the best on Saturday.”

Early on, the two teams exchanged goals with Brown knotting the score 2-2 when he scored with 7:01 remaining in the first quarter. Less than a minute later, Zach Augustine scored to put the Red Devils on top 3-2, and they led 4-2 after Scooter Whiteside took it the length of the field for the score.

Ryan Bulotta turned a Michael Ott pass into a goal to make it a 5-3 game, but the Red Devils scored a late goal to go into halftime with a 6-3 lead.

Goals were hard to come by for both squads, but the fact that the Central Bucks schools were closed on Monday due to an escaped prisoner certainly didn’t help the Patriots.

“I think the biggest thing we had – our offense was not in school yesterday,” coach Bruce Garcia said. “Without having that pre-game, it set us back.

“Coming off a weekend, I’m not putting blame on that, but it was a factor. Is their defense good? You can’t take anything away from them. Absolutely.”

Brown echoed a similar sentiment.

“I think it was tough,” the senior captain said. “A lot of guys got together. We had a conference call with coach, trying to get the game plan, but you can’t come out here today with some rust. You haven’t picked up your stick since Sunday. It’s really rough, and you could see it on the field in the first half.”

The Patriots controlled play in the second half but could not solve the mystery of Avon Grove’s defense and goalie Kevin Malone (six saves). East ‘outscored’ the Red Devils 2-1 but would get no closer than two.

“Their defense played really well,” Brown said. “Their defensive middies were really holding up our middies.

“We couldn’t produce today. The defense let up seven goals, and they can have those games. Offense has to score 10 goals, so I’m going to take this one on the offensive part. The defense did their job, the offense has to step up. We didn’t do that today.”

Bulotta led the Patriots with two goals and an assist while Brown and Ott both added a goal and an assist. Alec Bracken also had one goal.

Liam Rosenthal once again came up big in goal, turning away nine shots, but it wasn’t enough, and a memorable season had come to an end.

“It’s not a good feeling to have,” Brown said. “After coming off of Saturday’s really great win and not getting the same result hurts, but we have school tomorrow. We’ll see each other throughout the rest of the year.

“I’m proud of the guys we had out there today. Life’s not always easy, rainbows and lollipops.”

Garcia bids farewell to a special senior class.

“Consistency is the biggest thing,” the Patriots’ coach said. “Pick a year – five years, 10 years, 15 years ago.

“Being where we are now in the realm of fighting for a district berth, a playoff berth in the state championship, winning the conference. Consistency. They bring the consistency, and every year we have a senior class that does it. This year, these guys are extra special. They’re extra special to me personally, and I’ll leave it at that.”

The Patriots (9-0 SOL) closed out a successful season with an 18-6 record.

Central Bucks East     2-1-1-1   5
Avon Grove     4-2-1-0   7