When Mt. Lebanon faced North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA boys lacrosse playoffs, Mike Ermer expected the game to take on some characteristics of a boxing match.

So with every punch the Tigers delivered, the Blue Devils countered.

Even when it appeared NA had delivered the knockout blow, Lebo responded.

The Blue Devils overcame a two-goal deficit to record a 10-8 victory.

In the final 12 minutes, Mt. Lebanon outscored NA, 5-1.

“Playing NA is an annual rite of passage,” said Ermer. “It’s always a slugfest. When we meet up with those guys, everybody walks away with a bloody nose, but everybody plays hard and it’s a great game.”

The semifinal showdown May 20 at Moon Stadium certainly was a titanic struggle with each team overcoming deficits until Lebo prevailed.

Lebo jumped to a 1-0 lead on a goal from John Sramace, but NA responded with three straight goals to take the lead before Daniel Kovalan closed out the first quarter to narrow the gap to 3-2.

Goals from Blake Nelson and Brodie Campbell enabled Lebo to forge ahead 4-3 by halftime. Sramac assisted Nelson’s tally.

NA dominated the third quarter.

The Tigers scored three goals in the final 83 seconds of the quarter to take a two-goal lead. Matt Oston had back-to-back goals and Antonio O’Barto provided the third score with eights seconds to play in the quarter.

From there, Lebo changed strategies and relied upon Adam Marks, Matt Vines and Kovalan to wage the comeback. Marks assisted on a goal from Joe Gibbons 15 seconds into the final quarter. Vines scored the equalizer and Kovalan provided the winning goal with 5:09 to play.

“The coaches said ‘let’s go with the seniors’ so we leaned on them and they went out and made the big plays,” Ermer said. “We had those three at the midfield in particular and after Dan scored we said ‘let’s go with the seniors again.’ It’s that time of year when the seniors have to step up and they did.”

Jack Sullivan stepped up and supplied an insurance goal with 3:57 to play and Sramac also registered his 100th career goal. The goal gave Lebo an 8-7 advantage with 7:23 to play.

“John’s a heck of a player,” Ermer said of Sramac’s milestone. “We lean on him to do a lot of things. He’s just a junior so that is the best part. Also, his goal could not have come at a better time. That is all that matters to John. He really steps up in big times.”

Marks stepped up on the faceoffs, winning 10. He also won six ground balls while Gibbons led with seven.

Lebo’s defense took it up a notch, too.

Goaltender Tucker Welsh led in the back. The junior made 18 saves.

“The guys who scored did their goal,” Ermer said, “but Tuck in goal was outstanding and our defense as a whole was really good.”

Isaiah Davis was also very good for the Tigers. He accounted for half of NA’s offensive production. His fourth goal tied the contest at eight with 5:56 to play before Kovalan and Sullivan responded with the difference makers.

With the win, the Blue Devils advanced to the WPIAL championships and face Pine-Richland, a 9-6 winner against Shady Side Academy, in the other semifinal. The Class AAA final, May 24, was played too late to meet the deadline for this edition of The Almanac.

Complete coverage will appear in the June 2 publication.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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