KiXX gives Blast boot in clash for first, 18-16

11-point 4th quarter, `soft' goals lift Philly

January 14, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The hard part was supposed to be over.

It's been the first half that has plagued the Blast all season, evidenced by the fact it's been down at the break the past seven times before last night's game against the visiting Philadelphia KiXX.

Not only did the home team have a lead at intermission and after three quarters last night, in doing so, it avoided the many puzzling lapses that often had to be covered up late in previous wins.

This time, the Blast saved its worst for last, however, unraveling in the fourth quarter to not only allow the KiXX to escape Baltimore Arena with an 18-16 win, but also to take over sole possession of first place in the NPSL's American Conference.

The first three quarters fit the script with two of the best defensive teams in the NPSL playing with playoff-like intensity. And then came the fourth with the Blast willing givers and the KiXX greedy takers.

It was the ninth straight win for Philadelphia, which improves to 12-3 and, just as important, got the better of the Blast (12-5) for the first time in three tries this season.

Trouble for the home team started with 6:55 left in regulation when Domenic Mobilio gave the KiXX an 11-10 lead, scoring off an odd carom from a long ball sent in by keeper Peter Pappas.

Just 17 seconds later, Blast keeper Scott Hileman sent a poor clear that was quickly sent back in by Cesidio Colasante for a three-pointer and a 14-10 lead the KiXX would never relinquish.

The Blast, which took an 8-7 lead into the fourth quarter, would get back within two points on three occasions, the last time on Denison Cabral's goal with 25 seconds left. But the KiXX and Pappas (15 saves) had the final say.

"We gave up two back-to-back soft goals and all of a sudden we were down four points. We tried to battle back, but it comes to a point where you've got to take some chances and we were one shot away," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "It's frustrating to lose any game in this league, every game is important. We wanted to win this game to re-establish ourselves back in first place, but for various reasons we didn't get it done."

Cabral and Lee Tschantret both finished with two two-pointers and an assist to lead the Blast with five points. Chris Marinos provided vital offense for the KiXX with the final two-point answers in the last three minutes.

Each of the three games between the teams has been won by a two-point margin. The Blast came away with a 6-4 win in Philadelphia after trailing 4-0 at the half on Nov. 3 and then followed that two weeks later with a 16-14 win in Baltimore.

Last night, in front of 5,077 stunned fans, it was the KiXX's turn with the decisive fourth quarter going its way.

Hileman, who let a three-point goal through in the first quarter he appeared to have a track on and then had the uncharacteristic spell in the fourth, took much of the responsibility.

"I think the team, we played well enough to win. It's kind of a tough pill to swallow when you feel like you ... I mean, I think if I would have had an average game we would have won," he said.

"It's kind of hard to put a positive spin on this one right now, but we have a lot of games left. I think the guys can feel great about how they played and we know we can handle this team most of the time." The Blast's halftime lead was well-earned. Philadelphia took a 5-2 lead after the first quarter and then Pappas continually turned back point-blank shots from all angles in the second quarter, also getting help from both posts and the crossbar.

Mark Thomas took a ball off the boards from Jason Dieter, finishing from the left side, to cut the KiXX lead to 5-4 with 8:44 left.

Before Danny Kelly put the Blast up 6-5, following a Cabral shot with 3:28 left, Pappas had the goal covered on shots from Danny Santoro, Cabral and Kelly and then watched consecutive shots by Lance Johnson, Dieter and Tschantret skim off posts and the top crossbar.

Hileman preserved the lead with strong play of his own in the final minute of the half, saving a shot by Kevin Sloan and then getting his fingertips on a shot headed for the right corner by Marinos.

A three-point goal by Sloan opened the scoring before Tschanret and Joe Scigliano exchanged two-pointers to give the KiXX a 5-2 lead after the first quarter.

Philadelphia 5 0 2 11 - 18

Blast 2 4 2 8 - 16

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