Lewy Anania flexed toward the Marriotts Ridge sideline and repeatedly grunted “let’s go” after firing in his fifth goal of the night to spot the Mustangs a four-goal lead over visiting Mt. Hebron midway through the fourth quarter.
Exactly one week ago, Marriotts Ridge faltered across the regular-season finish line with an inauspicious showing against the same unit they faced on Friday night in a second round 3A/2A South region playoff battle. It was the only intra-county loss all year, putting a “damper” on the Howard County regular season title, Mustangs coach Tony Incontrera said. “We came out flat. … We didn’t match [Mt. Hebron’s] emotion,” Incontrera said last Friday.
Behind Anania’s exuberant outing, there was no doziness this time around, as No. 2 seed Marriotts Ridge powered its way to a 12-9 victory with a shot to get to the 3A/2A South region title game on Monday night when they host No. 4 seed Glenelg.
“This past week was a gut-check for the guys,” Incontrera said. “I think the way they came out last week and the way they came out this week was, really, night and day. You can see the difference in practice in last week compared to this week. You can see the focus. You can see the emotion. You saw it 25 minutes before the game began.”
After putting up the lowest scoring output all season in the 7-5 loss and losing nine of 16 face-offs, the Mustangs (11-5) flipped those numbers, winning 14 of the 24 face-offs and putting 15 shots on goal compared to Mt. Hebron’s 13.
All week long, Marriotts Ridge stressed the need to attack from behind the net and generate high-percentage looks with dodges in the slot.
From the onset, the Mustangs adhered to the blueprint. Jake Polinsky scored the first two goals, both four minutes into regulation. Mt. Hebron’ freshman Garrett Snyder (four goals) responded with his own to make it 2-1, but Marriotts Ridge then rattled off five-unanswered goals to swell the lead to 7-1 minutes before halftime.
Three of the five goals were assisted from behind the net with plays at the doorstep. Luke Ingersoll (one goal, two assists) assisted on two of the five goals from behind the net during the decisive 5-0 run.
Mt. Hebron, even though they never led, reeled off four-straight goals over a span of 2 minutes, 26 seconds that included a last-second strike by freshman Mateo Brown (three goals) in the first half and Snyder’s back-to-back goals to open the second.
But after it was 7-5 in the opening minutes of the second half, Anania slammed the door for good with a 20-yard rifle in the gap off an assist from Ingersoll to make it 8-5 and two more flashy goals to make it 10-6 and 11-7 in the fourth quarter.
“We came into this game blaring music, pumping each other up,” Anania said. “Last Friday, we knew we had another game. This Friday, we knew we could be packing up. It was about going out and laying everything.”
Troy Hettinger added a goal and an assist for Marriotts Ridge. Mustangs’ goalie Colin Kelley registered 10 saves.
Mt. Hebron, meanwhile, riding a three-game win-streak into Friday, couldn’t make up any more ground after drawing to within two early into the second half. It’s season ends with a 7-9 record.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Mt. Hebron coach Mike McCarthy said. “We didn’t execute. Turned the ball over, fouled way too much. We weren’t discipline defensively. … They beat us in ground balls. They probably had possession 75 percent of the time in the first half. We made careless turnovers with the ball, which turned directly into goals for them. That’s something we haven’t been doing the past three to four weeks.”
Though it may be hard to see at the moment, there’s plenty of room for optimism that Mt. Hebron will return to state-title-contending form sooner rather than later. All nine goals scored on Friday were from underclassmen, and seven of the nine were from freshmen — Brown and Snyder.
Mt. Hebron graduates seven seniors.
“They came in and battled and put the young guys in position to kind of take over the reins for next year,” McCarthy said of his seniors. “I’m upset for them right now more than anything. I think that our future is bright, but I think our group of seniors have helped pass that torch and show them the way. Our young kids will honor them and lead us in the future.”
Marriotts Ridge (11-5) — 12, Mt. Hebron (7-9) — 9
Goals: MR — Lewy Anania 5, Jake Polinsky 2, Peter Geier 2, Luke Ingersoll, Troy Hettinger, Brett Gladstone; MH — Garrett Snyder 4, Mateo Brown 3, Simon Perna, Nick Nordhausen
Assists: MR — Ingersoll 2, Hettinger 2, Anania, Geier; MH — Perna, Jared Simowitz, Brown, Jake Edmondson
Saves: MR — Colin Kelley 10; MH — Cody Stockenberg 5
Halftime: 7-2, Marriotts Ridge