Hillers hang on to defeat Riders 6-4 in boys’ lax quarterfinals

WILMINGTON — Goals were few and far between for both Caesar Rodney High and Tower Hill School on Saturday.

CR’s Tyler Gross and Tower Hill’s Michael Gianforcaro didn’t let much into their nets.

And the Riders were foiled by the post twice in the last five minutes. That helped the second-seeded Hillers hang on to edge Caesar Rodney 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the DIAA boys’ lacrosse state tournament.

“You can’t expect to win a playoff game only scoring that many goals,” said CR coach Matt Faircloth. “You definitely need more than that. But at the same time, our boys fought as hard as they could until the last whistle.”

Tower Hill advanced to play sixth seed Appoquinimink on Wednesday at Caravel Academy at 6 p.m. Caesar Rodney ended its season at 10-7 overall.

Gross, a junior, made 13 saves in the net while his counterpart at the other end of the field Gianforcaro, a freshman, recorded 19. It meant a much lower scoring game than when the two teams met during the regular season and the Hiller won 11-9.

“You had two very good goalies at both ends,” Faircloth said.

The Riders graduate seven seniors from this year’s squad, which was ripe with inexperience at the start of the season.

They rebounded after losing four consecutive games this season to make the quarterfinals. That included avenging an earlier defeat to Cape Henlopen in the first round of the tournament.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” said senior Luke Rankin. “We went through a tough, tough early season. We had some losses earlier in the season that we weren’t too happy about. Coach busted our butts every day in practice, made sure we stayed hungry and these young guys were able to battle back. I’m so proud of them. They’re a young group of kids who don’t have a lot of experience but they played so much more mature than they actually are.”

Tower Hill built its lead thanks to four unanswered goals in the second quarter.

Caesar Rodney closed the gap to 5-4 with 8:44 remaining in the game on Demetrius Stevenson’s third goal of the game. The Riders hit the post a few minutes later before Chris Miller doubled Tower Hill’s lead.

The Riders would hit the post one more time on the night before Tower Hill regained possession and was able to run out the final 50 seconds.

“We couldn’t finish our shots tonight,” Rankin said. “We were moving the ball around pretty well, but I think we had problems putting it in the cage. Hats off to Tower Hill’s goalie he had a heck of a night. We’re definitely disappointed we didn’t score more goals.”

Jack Bobel added the other goal for CR. Miller scored twice for Tower Hill while Russell Applegate had a hat trick and Dougie McCoy provided the other goal.

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