Atlas advances to Finale with 30-21 win over Whipsnakes
Romar Dennis jogged up the field sizing up his defender. He shook past the initial man with a stutter step to the right. Then, he made a similar move on the next defender approaching. With his hands free, the leading scorer of the Championship Series rifled another two-point score in an eventual Atlas 30-21 win over Whipsnakes to advance to the finals.
Dennis’ two-point goal came immediately after a Whipsnakes two-point make. Atlas followed Dennis’ score with a Chris Gray two-point goal on the next possession too. Whenever it looked like the Whipsnakes could start mounting a comeback, Atlas didn’t just score, they scored from beyond the arc.
Atlas hit four two-pointers in the third quarter alone and finished shooting converting nearly half of their shots. Whipsnakes played its best game of the Championship series and it wasn’t enough to stop the offensive flurries of Atlas, which now has a score differential through four games in the new sixes format.
“We knew exactly what the Whipsnakes are about,” Atlas interim head coach Steven Brooks said. “They’ve been in the last four out of five championships. You can’t ever back down on these guys, you never know when they’re going to have a great day.”
The Whips scored first with a drive from the X area by Keegan Khan. Before Atlas responded with a score of its own, Matt Abbott attacked from the same area and scored too. Stagnitta referenced after Friday night’s loss, needing to hold the ball deeper into the shot clock and bringing the ball behind the cage helped Whipsnakes achieve that in the first quarter.
But a one-goal Atlas lead after the first frame quickly expanded. Simply put, Atlas shoots to well in this format to be held to a low score for an entire game. A miscommunication on defense gave Romar Dennis too much space, and he hit from two. Then the Whipsnakes collapsed out to the two-point line and left too much space underneath as Dox Aitken ( 4 points) found success near the crease area.
“When one guy gets shut off, we almost like that better,” Atlas forward Bryan Costabile, who led the game with 10 points, said postgame. “Five on five everyone is on the field you go to work together, whatever. Four on Four or three on three, the whole field is open … .We have a lot of people who can beat their guy and then there’s no help and if someone does help it’s wide open.
“So pick your poison right? If you want to shut off from above the two-point arc we’ll just bang ones all day. If you want to play regular defense we’ll shoot.”
Atlas goalie Jack Concannon (18 saves) has been a star for the Atlas on defense and that showed late in the game on Saturday. He kicked away a shot from Jay Carlson, but the ball bounced back out to the two-point line. Then, still on the ground, Concannon scrambled for one more save, effectively killing off the Whipsnakes powerplay and the last chance at any sort of comeback.
“We played against teams that you know that really had a solid core of offensive players,” Whipsnakes head coach Jim Stagnitta said. “Teams that shot the ball better than we did. Teams that wanted to play offense together better than we did.”
Through four games at the championship series, Atlas is now averaging 30 goals. Their roughly 21 points against is the lowest mark too. Headed into Sunday, regardless of opponent, the Bulls will be the clear favorite to run the table in the first ever PLL sixes tournament.
“For me, I’ve been up since like two o’clock the last couple nights and I’ll probably be up late again,” Brooks said about preparing for Sunday’s final.