Mt. Lebanon finishes strong to defeat Shady Side Academy for WPIAL Class 3A championship

Friday, May 26, 2023 | 1:05 AM

In last year’s championship game between Mt. Lebanon and Shady Side Academy, J.P. Henry was the hero in overtime for the Bulldogs.

For a while in this year’s rematch, it looked like another fantastic finish was in the offing, but the Blue Devils had other ideas, finishing strong in regulation to win their first WPIAL title since 2015.

“Yes, it’s been eight years since we won,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Ermer. “We lost last year in overtime. We lost in 2019 in overtime. We’ve been hanging around. This year’s group was special, and it’s nice to walk out with the gold trophy this time.”

Shady Side built a 7-4 early in the third quarter when Seamus Riordan scored his second goal of the night.

Mt. Lebanon scored six of the next seven goals, including five unanswered at one point. Luke Prezioso and Joey Hetz each scored a pair of goals in that stretch while Brady Westbrook added another.

Mac Mohn, who scored twice in the game and had the game-tying goal late in regulation last season, pulled Shady Side within a goal with just over three minutes remaining.

But sophomore Keegan Green scored 18 seconds after Mohn to regain the two-goal cushion, and the Blue Devils got the ensuing possession after a Ben McAuley faceoff win and drained of most of the final two minutes to capture the program’s fifth championship.

“No lead is safe against them (Shady Side),” said Ermer. “When they came back and made it a one-goal game, things got a little tighter on our sideline, but we managed to go down and dump another one in.”

Emmerich Braham added two goals for Shady Side (9-12), but the Blue Devils were able to hold the Marquette recruit Henry off the score sheet.

Miles Halter, who had 10 points (7 goals, 3 assists) in Mt. Lebanon’s semifinal win over Upper St. Clair, added two assists for the Blue Devils as did Sullivan Kish. Senior Sam Myers recorded eight saves in net to get the win.

But the star of the night for Mt. Lebanon was midfielder Fred LaSota. The junior scored the first four goals on the game for the Blue Devils.

“He is ‘Steady Freddie.’ That’s what we call him,” Ermer said. “I know Myles (Halter) and Luke (Prezioso) get a lot of the of the points, but Freddie has been a steadying force down there.”

He also picked up a contested ground ball late, which helped the Blue Devils run out the clock for the victory.

“The groundballs, that what he does all the time. He’s ‘Blue Collar Freddie’ when it comes to those,” Ermer said.

Both teams now head to the PIAA playoffs beginning June 6.

Shady Side will face the District 3 champion, while Mt. Lebanon (17-5) will face District 10 champion McDowell in the first round.

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