Holding onto a 9-7 lead with little more than six minutes remaining in a tight-checking game against Florida last night, things looked promising for the Blast.
Four minutes later, the promise was dashed as the ThunderCats suddenly went berserk, first pulling out to a 13-9 lead, then holding on for a 16-13 victory.
It was 7-7 after three quarters, and when Franklin McIntosh started the final period with a two-pointer in the defensive struggle, it appeared as if the lead might stand up.
The ThunderCats (8-8) took time to work through the tight defense of Baltimore (4-10), but once through, they created a shooting gallery.
Jean Harbor scored on a brilliant header when Jeff Betts, on a restart from the corner, lobbed the ball over the box. Next it was Chris Scotti's turn. Then Marcello Fontana's.
Down four points, the Blast yanked goalie Brett Phillips. The move paid off soon after, when sixth attacker Danny Kelly scored to cut the gap to 13-11 with 1: 35 to go.
At 14: 14, Wes Sechrist intercepted a Blast pass and looped a three-pointer over the Baltimore defense from about 60 feet out.
McIntosh closed the margin to 16-13 with 20 seconds remaining, but that was the Blast's last gasp.
"We knew Florida had the potential to bust loose with four good guys going forward," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "But the way we had been handling them
"The thing that's discouraging is the effort was there throughout, and we were getting the job done. We had some tough luck, two of our shots sitting on the [goal] line. If one of them was good, we get some breathing room after Franklin's goal, and I think we hold on and win.
"Some losses are tougher to take than others. This is one of those. We worked so hard and we picked it up to go ahead and we had held them scoreless for a period and a half."
The Blast hit intermission tied at 7, having given up a 4-0 lead built in the first three minutes on close-in rebound goals by Billy Ronson and Barry Stitz.
Florida's John Olu-Molomo scored on a shootout, and Harbor slipped a bullet under the bar to narrow the Blast lead to 4-3.
Midway through the second period, Doug Neeley boosted the Blast to 6-3 with the team's third straight rebound goal, capitalizing on the visitors' problems clearing the box in front of goalie Scott Hileman.
Jeff Betts and Olu-Molomo tallied two-pointers to provide Florida with its first lead, 7-6, with three minutes remaining before the break.
Denison Cabral's power-play one-pointer on Tarik Walker's second assist tied the score with 38 seconds remaining. It was Cabral's 18th goal of the season.
The teams, which had split their first two contests, tightened up their defenses considerably in the third quarter.
The Blast had a couple of good chances during a power play while the ThunderCats were held to just two shots.
NOTES: Zach Thornton, former John Carroll High and Loyola College netminder from Edgewood and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for the Chicago Fire, kicked out the game ball Radio talk show host Nestor Aparicio sang the national anthem. The Blast isn't home again until Jan. 8 vs. Philadelphia. The Blast has a taxi squad, rookie Mark Southern being activated for a few games, while first-year players J. J. Kremer and C. J. Norton and third-string goalie David Tenney are regulars at practice.
@Florida 1 6 0 9 -- 16
Blast 4 3 0 6 -- 13
Pub Date: 12/27/98