PHILADELPHIA - Plenty of time left.
That must be the Syracuse mantra. For the second consecutive Saturday, the Orange squeezed out an improbable victory with a dramatic finish.
Derek Maltz scored off the rebound of a shot by Luke Cometti with 19.2 seconds left for a 9-8 victory over Denver Saturday night in an NCAA Tournament semifinal at Lincoln Financial Field.
And that a week after Dylan Donahue scored on a feed from JoJo Marasco with 13 seconds left to beat Yale, 7-6, in a quarterfinal.
Syracuse (16-3) will seek its 12th national championship against Duke (15-5) Monday afternoon. That scenario didn't seem possible when the Orange entered the fourth quarter trailing, 7-4.
"I'm almost getting used to it," Syracuse coach John Desko joked after the team's 10th one-goal game.
The game-winner evolved when the team's star, Marasco (two goals, three assists) was locked off with 31.5 seconds left. "We talked all week about what to do if JoJo gets shut off," Maltz said. "Luke took the ball hard to the cage. The ball trickled off the goalie's chest and I'm just thankful the ball went into the net."
Maltz and Scott Loy scored on overhead blasts to pull the Orange within 7-6 midway through the fourth, but the Pioneers' spirit was still alive.
Eric Law's third goal, off a well-timed feed by Taylor Young from behind the cage, provided Denver with an 8-6 cushion with 5:17 left. "We felt like we had them," said Denver coach Bill Tierney, who once coached at Great Neck South and Levittown Memorial high schools. "We had a couple of bad breaks at the end, but good teams make bad breaks."
Indeed, Syracuse's defense was especially sharp, forcing 17 turnovers against a team known for protecting the ball. "Syracuse did a great job of making us work for every pass," Law said.
Marasco scored unassisted just seven seconds after getting a two-man advantage to make it 8-7 with 2:35 left. The teams exchanged possessions and after a Syracuse timeout, Cometti (three goals) cut to the slot and took a sharp feed from Marasco to tie it with 58.8 seconds left, setting up yet another frantic finish.
"We don't really enjoy these one-goal games," Marasco said with a laugh.
They just win them.