14-0 collapse ends Blast's bid for finals, 16-15

Hosts' 10-2 lead at half vanishes as KiXX caps 2-game comeback

April 30, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Sun Staff

A season of great promise and high expectations came to an unsettling and unacceptable end for the Blast last night.

Seemingly in control and just one half away from reaching its first NPSL championship round, the Blast - in need of poise- instead showed panic in a second half that started with mystery and ended in disaster against the Philadelphia KiXX.

Rattling off 14 straight points to recover from an eight-point halftime deficit, the KiXX scored a 16-15 win over the Blast to come away with the third and deciding game of the American Conference finals in front of 2,297 at Baltimore Arena.

The Blast had firmly believed from the very first day that it was made of championship quality this season and a confident team came into the weekend fully expecting to be going to Milwaukee on Wednesday for the start of the championship round.

Instead, the KiXX were afforded an opening - tying the series with a 12-8 win in Philadelphia on Saturday -and then wouldn't leave last night.

"The finality of it - we don't have a game tomorrow or for the rest of the season - it's hard to accept it's over," said Blast midfielder Paul Wright. "We definitely have the talent in this room to win a championship. We didn't get the job done and that's everybody on the team, from the first player to the last player. We win as a team and we lose as a team and we have to try to accept this."

Last night's performance was a microcosm of the Blast's season.

Starting the season with seven straight wins, the Blast then showed signs of vulnerability in the second half, losing hold of leads as well as first place in the American Conference.

The home team seemed to put its stamp on yesterday's game in the second quarter, building a 10-2 lead with energy and efficiency at both ends. But things began to unravel, unexplainably, as the teams were walking off to the locker room for the halftime break.

Between the end of the first half and the start of the second, Blast goalkeeper Scott Hileman was called for elbowing KiXX player/coach Omid Namazi as they were leaving the field.

Before any time elapsed in the third quarter, the KiXX had a shootout goal from Shawn Boney and then needed just 34 seconds to score on the ensuing power play -Kevin Sloan from Goran Hunjak -to cut the Blast lead to 10-5.

"I was running to the locker like I always do after every half. Omid stepped in front of me and I just kept running - I didn't elbow him," said Hileman.

Don D'Ambra scored the next seven points - the first three on a deflected clear attempt from Hileman - and the KiXX had its first lead with 9:34 left to play.

Philadelphia increased the lead to 16-10 - the eventual game-winner from Hunjak a result of another Blast defensive lapse - before the Blast had a final-minute rally fall short.

Lee Tschantret scored a three-pointer that went off Namazi in front with 45 seconds left to cut the lead to 16-15, but that's how things would stay.

"I don't know what to say. We came out and played a great first half, we were in a great position at 10-2," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "We gave them points -it's unbelievable how we gave them points. To lose that way - I'm speechless."

D'Ambra finished with nine points to lead the KiXX, which also got a 21-save performance from Peter Pappas. Tschantret scored six points to lead the Blast with Denison Cabral adding four.

"Tomorrow is going to be a terrible day," said Cabral. "We're out already and it's going to be strange to wake up tomorrow not having to go to practice and it hurts a lot."

Added Tschantret: "It was a really weird season. Sometimes lady luck isn't on your side no matter what you do. We outplayed them the entire game, the goals they scored were atrocious. Sometimes it's just not meant to be I guess."

D'Ambra started the scoring 1:50 into the first quarter to give the KiXX a 2-0 lead, but the rest of the half belonged to the Blast.

David Vaudreuil evened the score less than a minute later and then the Blast took a 5-2 lead with a three-pointer from Cabral on a late first-quarter power play.

Leading 8-2 midway through the second quarter, Tschantret went crashing into the Blast goal to turn back a shot from Kevin Sloan and, then later in the quarter, scored at the other end to push the lead to 10-2.

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