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PHILADELPHIA — Garrett Leadmon didn’t look back once he saw the referees lift their arms inside the crease at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday afternoon.
That was enough confirmation for the Duke midfielder, 65 seconds into overtime in the NCAA Final Four, that the ball had hit the back of the Penn State net before any part of his body landed in the crease.
And it would have to be enough for the Nittany Lions, whose upset bid of No. 1 Duke fell short by the width of whatever part of Leadmon’s shoe was or wasn’t in the crease, in a 16-15 loss.
Despite a brief consultation between the referees, protests by the Penn State bench and an agonizing delay to confirm the play was not reviewable, the Nittany Lions had to swallow an unceremonious end to their season.
“It was really tough to see how that ended,” Penn State attackman TJ Malone said, fighting tears. “But that’s how it happened.”
The final play was a beauty by Leadmon, the grad student who set a pick to switch onto a short stick behind the cage, then got upfield and under his defender. Whether or not his foot was in the crease will be the subject of lengthy debate in State College. But that mattered none Saturday.
“I saw the referee put his arms up in the air and figured we won the game,” Leadmon said. “And that’s the end of that.”
The play does not meet the NCAA’s four criteria for review, which include clock errors, end of period shots (if deflected or on time) and if a shot hits the camera inside the goal. But not the fundamental boundary of the crease.
“Yes, there should definitely be a review,” Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni said. “At what point and what level we implement that, I hope it does go in there at some point. … Especially in a game like this on that stage, it’s available. But at the same time, I recognize that it’s not a part of our game; (I) understand that, we’ve got to live with the result and move on.”
Duke coach John Danowski was more succinct on when to add video review: “Not today.”
A sensational game deserved a better ending. Penn State, in its second Final Four and 0-8 all-time vs. Duke, trailed from the time the Blue Demons scored the final three goals of the first quarter. The Nittany Lions finally got even early in the fourth when Jake Morin (Garnet Valley All-Delco) absorbed punishment on the crease to make it 13-all. The teams traded goals the rest of the way, Malone getting the last from Morin with 5:07 left.
“We’ve been playing from behind most of the year, and we were exactly where we wanted to be,” Malone said. “We knew if we were close in that fourth quarter, they were going to start feeling the pressure. We were where we wanted to be, and that’s where we play our best.”
Penn State couldn’t convert a 30-second man advantage late in regulation, then Duke missed a chance at the horn. The Blue Devils won the opening faceoff of overtime – thanks to Jake Naso, who went 22-for-34 at the X with two goals and an assist – for Leadmon to win it.
Malone willed the underdog Nittany Lions to stay in touch. The Haverford School All-Delco missed last year due to hip injuries; Penn State consequently struggled to a 3-11 mark. The Big Ten Player of the Year had six goals, two assists and a team-high five groundballs. He had 10 goals and 18 points in three playoff games, both program records.
“He was absolutely incredible,” Penn State middie Mac Costin, also a Haverford School All-Delco, said. “When we needed a spark, he was there to give that spark, to light that fire for us to keep coming back and keep motivating us to come back and get to an even game.”
Morin had a goal and three assists. Costin, whose speed helped change the game early, had a goal and two helpers. Malvern Prep brothers Jack Traynor (goal, assist) and Matt Traynor (two goals) contributed on two goals each, the former shaking off a shoulder injury that has kept him out of practice all week.
Penn State limited 90-point man Brennan O’Neill to three goals and one assist. Freshman Will Costin (Haverford School All-Delco) was drafted into the defense with Jack Posey out injured, while Springfield’s Ryan O’Connor turned in a stellar shift at LSM in front of goalie Jack Fracyon (12 saves).
In the other semifinal:
Notre Dame 13, Virginia 12 >> For the first time in NCAA men’s lacrosse history, both semifinals went to overtime, this one won 29 seconds in by Brian Tevlin, who dodged from up top and snuck a shot five-hole on Virginia goalie Matt Nunes.
Notre Dame, chasing its first NCAA title, advances to its third final. The last two were losses, in 2010 and 2014, to Duke.
Tevlin’s goal broke the ninth tie of the game. Virginia led 11-9 when Petey LaSalla snuck home a shot with 8:54 left. But Notre Dame scored four of the last five goals, Jake Taylor reverse-handing a shot off a Tevlin crease with 32 seconds left in regulation.
Connor Shellenberger led Virginia with three goals and three assists. Peter Garno (Haverford School All-Delco) scored in the fourth. Nunes was outstanding with 17 saves.
UVA muted Pat Kavanagh, Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer, to two goals and an assist. Eric Dobson stepped up with four goals. Taylor and Jack Simmons scored twice each.
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