Berry, Branz lift Panther Lacrosse to Semi-Finals

Caleb Neff celebrates his 1st quarter goal (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Sam Scinta)

Caleb Neff celebrates his 1st quarter goal (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Sam Scinta)

O’FALLON – Any concerns OTHS Head Boys Lacrosse Coach Jim McIntyre had about his team’s long break between games were quickly put at ease in the first quarter of the MSLA Quarterfinals at the Panther Athletic Complex.

Senior utility player Harrison Berry scored three of his five goals in the first seven minutes, and fellow senior Blake Branz added four tallies of his own as two-seed O’Fallon (11-2) cruised to a 19-13 win over Wentzville (6-10) on Thursday night.

“What I was really impressed with with my guys was, they hadn’t played in two weeks. That’s hard in this sport. It’s also finals week, and my 13 seniors are done with classes, and as a coach, that concerns you. It’s the perfect set-up for a meltdown against a team you beat 20-4 the first time,” said McIntyre.

The Panthers wasted little time wiping out an early 1-0 deficit, rattling off four unanswered goals to end the quarter, building a lead they would never relinquish. Caleb Neff also scored for the Panthers in the first as they went into the first intermission holding a 4-1 lead. O’Fallon kept their momentum early in the second as well, with Branz and Berry finding the back of the net to open 6-1 lead with 7:05 left in the half, before Wentzville opened with a flurry of three goals in two minutes to close the gap to 6-4. OTHS would go into the half holding a 7-5 advantage.

Seemingly re-energized after the half, the Panthers roared out of the gates, scoring six straight goals to open a commanding 13-5 lead. Then, after a penalty that resulted in a man-down set for O’Fallon, Wentzville unleashed a scoring barrage on senior goalie Cameron Van Etten. The Indians took full advantage of the power play, scoring an impressive four goals over a one minute span, something McIntyre feels could have been avoided.

“Tip the cap to their offense, because they were making the looks they needed to make. But, we were not communicating, and we were over-thinking things. After that second goal, our heads started to drop a bit, and that mental negativity can be pervasive. That was something we talked about before the game, and that is something we will continue to talk about,” said McIntyre.

The Panthers, though, would find a way to hold on to their healthy lead, outscoring the visitors 6-4 in the final frame, catapulting the team into the semi-final to be played at Lindenwood-St. Charles, date and time to be announced.