Blast takes familiar path to win

Second-half rally tops Toronto again, 13-11 Blast takes familiar route, 13-11


January 13, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Earlier in the season, Blast midfielder Paul Wright talked about the importance of avoiding back-to-back losses.

"Lose two in a row in the playoffs, you're going home," he said.

The Blast was on the verge of just that last night against visiting Toronto, thanks in large part to another slow-starting first half.

But, once again, the offense re-appeared in the second half, and brought the defense with it.

Trailing at intermission for the 10th time this season, this time by six, the Blast showed no frustration or panic, instead scoring the game's last 10 points to come away with a 13-11 win in front of 5,371 at Baltimore Arena.

Getting three-point goals from Denison Cabral, Ronnie Simmons and Wright, a game-winning two-pointer from Doug Neely with 11:02 left, and a second-half blanket job on defense, the home team once again found a way.

And it was nothing new against the ThunderHawks, who saw an 8-2 halftime lead in December turn into a 12-9 loss to the Blast in Toronto.

Similar halftime feelings showed up last night with a familiar happy ending for the Blast.

"We were sitting here in the locker room at halftime and we were all disappointed. Some heads were down, but deep down, we knew we could come back on this team just like we did in Toronto. And I think they knew, too," Wright said.

The Blast is now 12-4 on the season, still perfect at 4-0 after a loss and 7-3 when trailing at the half. More importantly, Baltimore keeps pace with Philadelphia, which improved to 11-3 with a 7-6 win against Buffalo last night.

The KiXX visit Baltimore tonight with first place in the NPSL's American Conference on the line.

After relying on the three-pointers to get within reach, two-pointers 30 seconds apart put the Blast over the top early in the fourth quarter.

Mark Thomas chested down a pass from Wright and scored in close from the left side with 11:27 left to get the Blast even at 11. Neely quickly followed with the unassisted game-winner.

The ThunderHawks, which got a five-point performance from Jimmy Glenn, was on the power play for the final 1:54 of regulation, but Blast keeper Scott Hileman, with plenty of defensive support, wouldn't budge.

Hileman smothered a shot from Willie Giummarra with 51 seconds left and then turned aside Chris Stathopoulos' shot in the closing seconds to preserve the win.

"We found a way to win the game tonight, but we can't keep getting in the hole," Blast coach Kevin Healey said. "When you play from behind, it puts a little pressure on you. You've got to keep the team where they're at, and then you know they will feel the pressure when you're coming back at them."

Simmons said the second-half turnaround started with defense.

"When we break teams down defensively, it opens up everything for us. We did that, got some big three-pointers, and eventually the momentum swung our way," he said.

All of the first-half scoring took place in the first quarter, and all of the Blast's scoring came from a three-point bomb from Cabral for an early 3-2 lead.

And while the Blast struggled to capitalize on its other chances, the ThunderHawks jumped on their opportunities.

Giummarra finished off two restarts for a 6-3 lead and Glenn scored a three-pointer with one second left for a 9-3 lead.

The only thing that went in either goal in the second quarter was Toronto defender O'Neill Brown, sent in by a crashing Tarik Walker seconds before the half, as the Blast's frustrations continued.

Thomas hit the inside of the post on a chance early; Danny Kelly missed an open net late; and other shots went high, wide or right at Toronto keeper Theo Zagar.

"I think it's just concentration. When the second half comes around, our concentration gets better because we know we can't make any more mistakes," Wright said. "We showed a lot of character again tonight."

Following tonight's game against Philadelphia, the Blast will be on the road for three straight, not returning home until a visit from the Cleveland Crunch on Jan. 27.

Notes: Last night was the Blast's 100th game in the NPSL and also midfielder Danny Santoro's 100th career game for the Blast.

Toronto 9 0 2 0 - 11

Blast 3 0 6 4 - 13

First quarter: 1. Toronto, Oliviero, 2 pt, (Biello), 6:01; 2. Blast, Cabral, 3 pt, 6:45; 3. Toronto, Giummarra, 2 pt., 7:33; 4. Toronto, Giummarra, 2 pt., 11:04; 5. Toronto, Glenn, 3 pt., 14:59.

Third quarter: 6. Toronto, Glenn, 2 pt., 2:12; 7. Blast, Simmons, 3 pt.; 8. Blast, Wright, 3 pt., (Neely), 7:54.

Fourth quarter: 9. Blast, Thomas, 2 pt., (Wright), 3:33; 10. Blast, Neely, 2 pt., 3:58; . Penalties: Blast, Wright (kicking), 13:06.

Shots on goal: Blast 8-9-11-; Toronto 8-3-3-.Power-play opportunities: Toronto 0-for-1.Goalkeepers: Blast, Hileman 17 shots,12 saves ; Toronto, Zagar 18 shots, 13 saves. A - 5,371.

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