In the first game of a doubleheader on Friday, it was a battle on unbeatens. And the top seed in the elimination round was on the line. Winner gets the one seed, nothing else to consider. Ultimately, it was a fight to the final minutes.
Atlas have been the team that saw the new 13 yard two point arc and embraced it, attacking the Sixes format from distance and hitting two pointers in two games. That’s 70% accuracy on their twos. The Archers on the other hand, have approached Sixes as they do outdoors in field. They have most of their regular field roster, and use most of their regular field concepts. Two man games and picking lead to open looks for any one of their lethal shooters, while two way threats like Jared Conners and Jeff Trainor show off their ability on both ends.
Scoring has been early and often, and Friday was no exception. The first quarter ended 8-7, highlighted by a series of two pointers by, once again, Romar Dennis. Koby Smith was also in on the action with two transition goals, included a one on one with the goalie following a nice break out on a save by Jack Conncannon. Atlas got a brief scare in the 1st quarter as Concannon was rolled up on during a shot in tight, but he was able to stay in the game.
Dennis stayed hot for Atlas, entering the half with six points via three two point goals. He looked ready to let it go the second his hands were free, regardless of where he was on the arc. The three two’s from Dennis were complemented by a two point goal from Bryan Costabile. Peter Dearth, Chris Gray, and Christian Mazzone also had first half tallies.
Only four of the ten goals from Atlas were assisted however, while seven of the 13 for Archers were. At half time, the teams were tied at 14. Archers had actually scored 13 goals to Atlas 10, but because of two’s scores were knotted.
“It felt kind of bizarre because I do think we felt like we were playing better than them and at the end of that first half, the score didn’t show it. Our message was continue to buck down, force them to score ones,” said Archers attackman Grant Ament.
After the half, the Archers began to more heavily defend the two point lane, and hedge help defenders towards Dennis to try and limit the two point impact for Atlas. It opened space inside, and Dearth, Gray, and Aitken were able to exploit that space. A late flurry of saves from Concannon kept the game within one, as Atlas led 23-22 heading into the 4th quarter.
At that point, neither team had won a quarter by more than a goal. Atlas was able to make some key defensive stops, led by Jack Concannon who finished with 14 saves. As the Archers pressed out, Atlas found success dodging and attacking the middle of the field. It was two major defensive stops to close the game that deliver a 31-26 victory.
“We certainly had our opportunities, and we played toe to toe until that fourth quarter, and it just didn’t go our way,” said Archers attackman Ament.
“It’s a crazy game, I start by saying that every time. It’s so up and down. There’s little margin for error, but it’s a game of momentum,” said Archers Head Coach Chris Bates.
“Tomorrow is a whole different ball game. It’s not like we haven’t competed, but now you lose you go home,” added Bates.
In a rough break for Atlas, Koby Smith had to leave the game with a lower body injury and was unable to return. The rules for the tournament say that a team must lose two players before adding one, so should Smith be unable to go, Atlas will be shorthanded tomorrow.
With that news, players from the Atlas are focused on recovering as best as they can.
“I’ve got a heated back thing, I walk on a rock mat every morning and night, I get treatment every day, I hydrate. I basically hibernate between sessions,” said Romar Dennis.
Dennis said it’ll be a team effort to pick up the slack and make sure everyone is as fit as they can be.
“I remembered coming down after playing defense twice, looking over at our sub box. If I’m in that position, it’s a relief if I guy can stay on. If I can give them that feeling by taking one more shift, I’ll stay on. Our whole team has the same mentality of just digging in for each other,” he added.