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PIAA boys lacrosse: Marple Newtown mounts comeback, beats Mars in 2nd straight year for Class 2A title

UNIVERSITY PARK — Toward grieving teammates, Mars’ Enzo Grieco walked through a sea of black and orange gloves, sticks and helmets. Fellow senior Dylan Phillips laid face-down on the turf, while others sat on their heels with a thousand-yard stare.

A little more than 12 minutes of game time earlier, the momentum suggested that scene at Penn State University’s Panzer Stadium would look much different.

“I just kind of wished I was in their position,” Grieco said of Marple Newtwon after an 11-9 loss in Saturday afternoon’s PIAA Class 2A boys lacrosse final.

His coast-to-coast goal with a dozen ticks left in the third quarter pushed the Planets (20-4) back ahead 8-7. If the outcome was solely based on drama factor, it would’ve made for a fantastic apex.

“We were struggling to clear,” Grieco said of the Herculean solo effort in which he powered through four Tigers defenders at midfield. “I talked to (teammate Ben) Bowser. I said, ‘Bowser, stay back, let me go try it.’ I was able to get the ball, and whenever I got to their sideline I kind of just did what I know and tried to get through all of them.

“I realized the ball was still in my stick, so I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to keep going.’ Nobody slid to me.”

Related Article: PIAA boys lacrosse championship preview: Mars defense a focal point, focused on Marple Newtown again Related Article: Mars makes PIAA boys lacrosse Class 2A title game for 4th straight year, facing Marple Newtown ... again

Unfortunately, it was Mars’ only marker in an 18-minute, 12-second span that bridged the third and fourth frames. During that stretch, Marple’s Evan Kotsack netted three goals, erasing the Planets’ 7-4 halftime advantage.

Mars leaped out to a 5-1 first-quarter edge as Grieco cracked the scoreboard less than a minute in, Ian Coulter scored twice for the Planets and Bowser and Ryan Blake each added another.

While confident in his crew, there was something haunting Mars coach Bob Marcoux at that juncture.

“Last year,” Marcoux said, referring to his program’s matchup with Marple on the same stage, a defeat that came in the final moments. “I knew that this was going to be a one- or two-goal game, that we had to fight all the way through. We had to make sure that we kept the team up because we knew that it’s never over until there’s three zeroes on the clock.

“I’m really pleased with most phases of the game other than the turnovers.”

Members of the Mars boys lacrosse team hug each other before facing Marple Newtown in the PIAA Class 2A boys lacrosse tournament championship Saturday at Penn State University's Panzer Stadium. Chris Eutsler/Special to the Butler Eagle

The early four-goal surge forced the Tigers (22-3) into a timeout, but a Planets miscue after that allowed Marple’s Brian Cox an odd-man opportunity to make it 5-2 before the initial frame concluded.

Eighteen seconds into the second, Coulter emerged from a scrum and wheeled away to dump another in for Mars. Jace Kostack and James Kirby pulled the Tigers within a pair with 8:56 left before the midway point. Grieco cashed in on a penalty 2:14 later to finish the scoring in the opening 24 minutes.

The intermission allowed Marple to take a step back and reassess.

“I think our guys settled down,” Tigers coach Kevin Merchant said. “When we settled down and started realizing how we could support each other, slide to each other and doubles ... I think our defense showed.

“We tried to stay compact, we tried to stay calm and not let the frustrations get there.”

Planets miscues aided in Marple’s comeback, as well.

Mars boys lacrosse attacker Enzo Grieco (24) puts a shot on net against Marple Newtown in the PIAA Class 2A boys lacrosse tournament championship Saturday at Penn State University's Panzer Stadium. Chris Eutsler/Special to the Butler Eagle

“We were getting some decent shots, some decent looks,” Marcoux said. “I think, just in general, we had a few uncharacteristic turnovers that led to quick transition goals for them. It’s unusual for us.”

Marple’s Ryan Keating and Brett Wolski scored 1:10 apart early in the fourth, climbing ahead 9-8. Bowser knotted it up with 5:38 to play before a pair of Box goals provided the difference.

“I was saying it’s like déjà vu,” Grieco said.

He and his classmates graduate having won four consecutive WPIAL crowns and reaching the state championship game each of those go-rounds, winning one as well in the first of three straight meetings against Marple Newtown.

“We talk about being able to maximize time together, and all four of my years here we’ve maximized our time together,” Grieco said. “Which, at the end of the day, is most important — being able to spend as much time together as possible.”

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