MANSFIELD, Mass. – In the playoffs, winning and losing games generally comes down to execution in crucial moments. That is especially true when it is two league rivals that know each other well and would love to advance at the other’s expense.
After King Philip traveled to Alumni Field and knocked out Mansfield 6-5 with a strong second half comeback in the Div. 1 South first round game, the one word that both coaches used to define why the Warriors came out on top was execution.
“We put a lot of time in practice to different defensive scenarios,” said KP coach Jacob Kravitz, “and we used everything at least once even if it was just for one possession. Everybody on ‘D’ had a lot on their plate from a playbook perspective and they executed everything.”
Mansfield coach Tim Frias was blunt in his assessment of the second half. He said, “They didn’t make mistakes and we made a lot of mistakes. They did very well and they had a great game plan going into it.
“It really came down to their players executing and our players not.”
The Hornets were executing early and built a 4-2 lead at the break. In fact it took only 44 seconds for Jarrett Saunders to open the scoring with a low angle shot that snuck past Paul Macrina. KP nearly tied it late in the first with a great passing move in transition only to have Harry Fallon hit the post.
With 2.4 left in the quarter, Billy Grant made it 2-0 with a shot from straightaway that Macrina got a piece of and appeared to have kept out, only to have the ball trickle past him and over the line.
KP responded in the second quarter to tie it. John Deluca got the first with a shot that bounced over the head of Mansfield goalie Sean Powers (15 saves). Fallon tied it with 6:04 left to halftime when he snared a rebound and went behind his back to find the top corner.
Mansfield again found late goals to regain the lead. Ryan Smith was involved in both, scoring the first when he snagged a loose ball on the edge of the crease and then taking advantage of a bad turnover to assist on a goal by Sam O’Connell, who matched Fallon with the creativity of his finish.
Coming out of halftime, the Warriors took control of the game. KP would score the next four goals between the third and fourth quarters to take the lead, while its defense continued to shut down the Mansfield attack. Even when the Hornets did get chances to possess the ball, they rushed their chances and allowed KP to heap even more pressure on the Mansfield defense.
“Not settling and not playing our game and that really showed in the second half,” said Frias. “Really it was something that we hadn’t done all season.”
Kravitz credited Macrina for sparking his team at the break. The junior goalie followed up his halftime team talk with a stellar showing in the second half, making nine of his 11 saves to regularly deny the Hornets another goal.
“I see it all the time,” said Kravitz with a smile. “He’s just always that good and he’s a great person too.
“At halftime, the first person to say anything was Paul and he said, we can’t get down, we can’t blame anyone, we can only win it as a team. That was probably a big part of that second half.”
Anthony Truini got the comeback started with a lefty shot to the bottom corner on the run within the first minute of the third quarter. With three minutes left in the third, Sam Agricola popped up in transition off an assist by Zach D’Amico to tie the game at 4-4.
“He matched up against two or three different all-league midfielders today (Connor Finerty, Hunter Ferreira, and Billy Grant) and did a great job,” said Kravitz of D’Amico, who he called an underrated part of the team’s success. “He was also the one man clear on the timeout that ended up icing the game.”
Early in the fourth quarter Agricola struck again off an assist from Deluca. He sniped the top corner to make it 5-4. Seven minutes later, Tim Watson forced a turnover in the attacking zone and fed Agricola for another rip into the corner to make it 6-4.
“He’s tough,” said Kravitz of Agricola. “He takes elbows and sticks and hits and he doesn’t care and he puts the ball on the cage.”
Grant took advantage of a man-up situation to fire in his second of the game and cut the lead back to one. With 1:04 remaining, Jon Reed had one last chance for the Hornets to try and tie it. He was open on the edge of the crease and had time to throw several fakes but Macrina still managed to read the play and stuff the chance.
“Paul is an unbelievable goalie,” said Frias of Macrina. “He did it all last year and he’s doing it again this year especially at the right time getting hot.”
King Philip (11-8) will face the winner of Newton North and Natick in the quarterfinals.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.