Blast distances itself from Heat, 15-10

Gap widens to 3 games, with second place closer

Soccer

March 02, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

It was a second-half performance last night that proved the Blast is clearly rolling forward rather than looking behind.

The Harrisburg Heat was at the 1st Mariner Arena fighting for its playoff life, and no sympathy came from the home team. The Blast calmly dealt with what the visiting team came with in the first half and then routed it in the second.

Tarik Walker - simply unstoppable - led the attack with two goals and two assists for a season-best six points and the defense was sturdy when called upon for a dominating 15-10 win over the Heat before 6,093 on Fan Appreciation Night.

With four road games left, the Blast improves to 15-17, moving three games in front of the Heat (12-20) for the third and final playoff spot in the Major Indoor Soccer League's Eastern Conference. Closer now is second place with the Blast just a half game behind the Cleveland Force (15-16), which lost to the Milwaukee Wave, 16-6, yesterday.

Blast coach Bobby McAvan was bubbling over the second-half passion his group displayed.

"The statement we made is that it's playoff time with everything on the line. At halftime, we spoke about our near misses in the first half and also about raising the urgency. And, boy, did they respond."

The Blast scored 11 consecutive points to start the second half to pull away.

Shots that were a little off in the first half were right on target.

The Blast trailed 6-4 at the half, but newcomer Allen Eller got it even early in the third quarter, and then the scoring splurge began. Denison Cabral's 300th career goal was a three-pointer with 3:09 left for a 9-6 lead, and P.J. Wakefield came back less than a minute later to make it 11-6.

Walker, with a quick turn and fire in front, made it 13-6 early in the fourth quarter before Danny Kelly closed out the Blast scoring. It was more than enough.

"We thought it was just a matter of time before we made a run at them. We kept playing the good defense and the turnovers we created turn to goals," said Walker, who had one goal and two assists in the Blast's win over Cleveland on Friday.

"Confidence is the major thing [for me], something I was lacking earlier in the season. Now we're isolating me more to get opportunities and the runners are working hard to give me even more room."

For 10-year veteran defenders Lance Johnson and Jason Dieter, it was the right way to wrap up their last regular-season home game, where they were honored - playing solid to provide a chance for a playoff game here later.

"It was a little tough after the game, talking to the crowd and all and then it hit me. Not so much this being my last game at home, but how the fans have always come out and supported me. Not being from here, it makes you feel good," said Johnson.

The Blast started and closed the first-half scoring, but the Heat made more of its chances in between to take a 6-4 halftime lead.

Harrisburg 2 4 0 4 - 10

Blast 2 2 7 4 - 15

First quarter - 1. Blast, Walker, 2 pt., (Tschantret), 7:29; 2. Harrisburg, Leone, 2 pt., (Vignjevic), 12:51. Penalties - Harrisburg, Hernandez, (intentional hand ball), 5:55. Second quarter - 3. Harrisburg, Vignjevic, 2 pt., (Tanzini), 1:45; 4. Harrisburg, Leone, 2pt. (Henning), 5:03; 5. Blast, Bowers, 2 pt., (Walker), 11:34; 6. Blast, Cabral, 3 pt., 11:51 Penalties -none. Third quarter - 6. Blast, Eller, 2 pt., (Johnson), 6:36; 7. Blast, Cabral, 3 pt., 11:51; 8. Blast, Wakefield, 2 pt., (Eller), 12:36. Penalties - none. Fourth quarter - 9. Blast, Walker, 2 pt., (Wakefield), :53; 10. Kelly, 2 pt., (Walker), 6:31; 11. Harrisburg, Bascome, 2 pt., (Hernandez), 12:45; 12. Harrisburg, Vignjevic, 2 pt, (Leone), 13:40. Penalties - none. Shots on goal - Harrisburg 7-10-5-9 - 31; Blast 10-5-8-9 -32 . Power-play opportunities - Harrisburg 0-for-0; Blast 1-for-1. Goalkeepers - Harrisburg, Damico, 22 shots, 15 saves, Morman, 1 shot, 1 save; Blast, Phillips, 17 shots, 12 saves. A - 6,093.

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