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Salesianum falls to IMG Academy in double overtime thriller in battle of high school lacrosse heavyweights: Photo gallery

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Zach Friend makes a lunging effort to knock the ball from an opponent from IMG Academy. For his troubles, Friend was whistled for a foul. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — The game may not have ended the way Salesianum’s lacrosse team had hoped, but there was no reason for the Sals to hang their heads after taking national powerhouse IMG Academy (Fla.) to double overtime before falling, 12-11, on a cold April 27 afternoon.

It was a tight affair all day at Abessinio Stadium, where a sizeable crowd, including a group of Salesianum students, was on hand to watch the high-profile matchup. The visiting Ascenders, who have at least a half-dozen Division I college recruits on the roster, came in ranked 17th in the latest Inside Lacrosse rankings. The Sals are currently No. 22 in the country. They also have a number of college commits.

The game was tied at 3 after the first quarter and at 5 at the half. IMG did not waste much time after the half to get its offense in gear. The first goal was the result of a great defensive play by an Ascender who intercepted a Sals shot as it headed toward the keeper, then ran the length of the field and scored a minute in. The player’s number and several others are not listed on an online roster.

IMG won the draw and made it count. Johnny Maccarone scored the goal with 8:58 to go in the third. The 7-5 lead was the Ascenders’ largest of the game.

It didn’t take the Sals long to respond. With a delayed penalty pending on IMG, Caelan Driggs found a wide-open Rowyn Nurry at the 7:19 mark. Driggs picked up another assist just 33 seconds later when he fed Zach Friend, whose scoop shot found the net. A faceoff violation gave the ball back to the Sals, and this time Driggs did the scoring, with the helper going to Ryan Metz. That took just 11 seconds and gave Salesianum a 10-7 lead, firing up the home crowd.

That was the score heading into the fourth, and the IMG goalkeeper kept it that way with a big save just seconds into the quarter. That save turned into an opportunity for the Ascenders, and they scored 23 seconds into the fourth to get back to within two.

Friend got that goal back in a hurry. Another faceoff violation gave the ball to the Sals, and Friend restored the three-goal cushion a mere 30 seconds after the IMG tally. But Braden Erksa, who has committed to play college lacrosse at Maryland, took a pass behind the net and scored at the 8:46 mark to cut the Sals’ lead to 11-9.

The play was physical all day, and some extra contact led to the Sals being a man up. The Ascenders killed that penalty, however, staying within striking distance. For all of the blistering shots and bruising checks, IMG’s next goal was anything but. An Ascenders shot midway through the quarter caught the end of a teammate’s stick head, slowing the shot down and giving the ball a slight change of direction. That was enough to throw Sals’ keeper Ryder Sellers off-balance, and with 4:27 to go, it was a one-goal game.

IMG tied the score with 3:06 remaining after the Sals committed a faceoff violation. Erksa had that one as well. Sallies had one more man-up opportunity in the closing minutes of regulation, but they could not score. A Sals shot was wide with 18 seconds to go, with possession going to IMG, but the Ascenders were unable to get a shot at the other end.

The IMG keeper stopped a shot 45 seconds into the four-minute first overtime, but the Sals got the ball back a minute later after a big stick check by Brayden McMahon. A shot went wide, and IMG’s last-second attempt was blocked by a Salesianum defender. The game moved to a second sudden-death extra session.

The Ascenders won the faceoff and went to work. An attacker got loose behind the Sals’ defense, took a pass and sent a shot high into the net 48 seconds in, prompting a celebration among the visitors.

Final statistics were not available late April 27. The Sals (8-1) host Delmar at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. They then travel to Cape Henlopen on Tuesday for a state-championship rematch with the Vikings.

All photos by Mike Lang.