KiXX adds 20-15 insult to injuries of Blast

Jockeying for best seed, ailing Baltimore falls into third place with loss


March 26, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

TRENTON, N.J. - Not even a change of scenery helped, or going up against the Philadelphia KiXX, which the Blast has handled very well all season.

The banged-up Blast, limping noticeably to the finish line, let the KiXX take charge in the third quarter and then could muster only a mild fourth-quarter challenge yesterday afternoon in falling, 20-15, and sliding down a spot in the NPSL American Conference standings.

The Blast, now 21-17 and in third place after its third straight loss, traded positions with the KiXX, which takes over second place at 21-16.

Closing out the regular season next weekend, the Blast was anticipating Friday's showdown with first-place Harrisburg (24-15) would be the top priority. Instead, a Saturday visit to Philadelphia to try to regain second place is what Baltimore must settle on.

Looking for some good news?

Some came from Detroit earlier yesterday as the Rockers' win over the Cleveland Crunch clinched a playoff spot for the Blast.

With regulars Jason Dieter, Danny Kelly, Derrick Marcano and Mark Thomasall out of the lineup with an assortment of injuries, the Blast was able to stay even with the KiXX in an entertaining first half that ended tied at 11.

But the KiXX, which got a seven-point performance from Don D'Ambra that included the game-winner late in the third quarter, defended better down the stretch to win for only the second time in six tries against the Blast.

Frustration in the Blast locker room followed.

"We just can't doubt ourselves," said veteran defender Doug Neely. "I was talking to some of the guys from Cleveland in the middle of the season and the year they won a championship, they lost eight of their last 10 games. It's just something we got to believe in ourselves we can win."

Rich Moller scored his first professional goal 5:28 into the third quarter to get the Blast even at 13 before the KiXX closed out the period with two-point goals from Goran Hunjak and D'Ambra for a 17-13 lead.

After all the offense in the first three quarters, the teams settled in defensively and that was just fine with the KiXX, which left little space with tight marking down the stretch.

Denison Cabral, who record his ninth hat trick of the season, scored on the power play with 4:59 left to cut the KiXX lead to 17-15. But the KiXX got a two-pointer from Scott Henderson with the extra attacker on in the closing minute and later added a one-pointer from Cesidio Colasante.

"In the fourth quarter, we just couldn't finish. We had a lot of free kicks and we just have to be able to put it together better than that," said Cabral, who has a team-high 126 points this season. "It's not just playing hard, but it's also being smart - that's the key. And that has to come from everybody, including myself. When we put it together we'll be fine."

The Blast has two regular-season games to get things in order.

"We want to get the best seed that we possibly can and, more importantly, we got to get ourselves some wins next weekend to get back on the right track just to have that winning feeling again," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "We're a team that has to work hard and play defense to win."

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