MIDDLETOWN -- With his team struggling to score goals during its NJSIAA Tournament run, senior goalkeeper Miles Gallagher has been providing more highlights than any other Christian Brothers Academy player during its run to the South Jersey Non-Public championship game.

When Colts coach Tom Mulligan had a chance to address his team before heading to overtime scoreless for a second straight game, he both acknowledged that Gallagher had the play of the game to that point and implored his team to make sure his goalkeeper's save didn't remain CBA's highlight of the match.

Senior Lawrence Mancino honored his coach's request with a golden-goal header in the sixth minute of overtime and CBA -- the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Non-Public A section -- pulled out a 1-0, overtime win over No. 3 Pingry to capture its third consecutive South Non-Public A championship.

"I told the boys (after regulation), ‘Right now Miles is the player of the game," Mulligan said. "Miles made a game-saving save or two. But I don’t want anybody to remember this game for Miles’s save. Somebody out here be a hero and put the ball in the back of the net and we’re all going to remember that goal. And Miles, sorry, you’re going to be a distant memory.’”

For a 60-minute stretch from the 15th minute to the 75th, CBA was on the short end of possession of the ball and quality scoring chances. The Colts began the game with a flurry of opportunities that included two rips by senior forward and top scorer Dylan Millevoi that Pingry goalkeeper Sebastian Martinez saved, as well as a shot by senior Cameron D'Alterio that banged off the left post.

Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com
Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com

Over the final five minutes of regulation, however, CBA asserted itself again and the increased movement on the attack eventually led to the game-winner in the 86th minute.

"The energy was a little low at the start of the second half and even the end of the second half, but once intermission ended, we all came out in overtime with loads of energy," Gallagher said We know it’s a big stage. We can’t go home and we don’t want to go home on this field."

Senior defender Dan Dinnell drew a foul along the right flank near the corner, which set Gambale up to take a free-kick service. Gambale drove a low ball that cleared the line of players even with the near post and made it to the opposite side of the goal. Mancino elevated over a defender and slammed a header back into the right corner of the goal with 4:30 showing on the clock during the first overtime period.

The goal was Mancino's first since Oct. 2, ending a stretch of nine games without a goal for the Colts senior center midfielder.

Mancino's goal ended a stretch of 220 minutes without a goal for CBA that extended back to the 55th minute of a 1-0, opening-round win over St. Joseph of Metuchen. The Colts then survived a round of penalty kicks on Friday after a 0-0 draw vs. No. 4 St. Augustine and made it to overtime on Tuesday without a goal.

"I think we just get more compact," Gallagher said. "We see the bright lights and it’s a lot more important now. We can’t let in a goal. We’re not going to score as much against this caliber of teams and you have seen that: one goal in the last two games. I tell myself before every game: I’m not letting in the goal."

CBA senior Lawrence Mancino heads in the golden goal in the South Jersey Non-Public A final with his teammates. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
CBA senior Lawrence Mancino heads in the golden goal in the South Jersey Non-Public A final with his teammates. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

CBA's scoring struggles did not harm the Colts because their opponents have had a much harder time scoring against CBA's defense than the other way around. Gallagher and CBA's defense have now gone 482 minutes without allowing a goal -- a stretch that began after the Colts conceded a goal to Marlboro in a 2-1, overtime win over the Mustangs in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Oct. 13.

"It’s the old adage that defense wins championships," Mulligan said. "You have seen us run through the Shore Conference and the state tournament in years past and the backbone of the program is the defense and the goalkeeping is a key element to that."

Even more remarkable, CBA's near-500-minute stretch without conceding started just minutes before the Colts lost senior midfielder Dimitry Corba to a knee injury -- one that has kept him out since he sustained it in the win over Marlboro.

"Last year, we lost Will (Thygeson) in the Shore Conference Tournament," Mulligan said. "This year, we lost Dimitry for the end of the Shore Conference Tournament and all of the state tournament and, boy, I wish I had him back. I know he wants to come back and he is really trying to get cleared to play in the final, but that’s going to be a challenge. I don’t want to sacrifice somebody’s health for any game.

CBA senior goalkeeper Miles Gallagher. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
CBA senior goalkeeper Miles Gallagher. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

"We have been successful because it’s not a one-man team. The boys rally around each other and they enjoy celebrating these victories because they are very special."

Gallagher has been a significant factor in keeping the shutout stretch going, especially on Tuesday. Gallagher made four saves to complete the clean sheet and the stop he made in the 62nd minute was as crucial as any he has made in his two seasons as a varsity starter with the Colts.

Pingry earned a corner kick from the left side and Thomas Yanez served the ball to the mouth of the goal, where senior and leading scorer Anthony Bugliari won position. Pugliari elevated and shot a header toward the goal, but Gallagher reacted quickly enough to parry the shot over the crossbar.

"I was just having a nice conversation with (Pingry junior Neil Riener) and all of a sudden, the ball was coming at me," Gallagher said. "I was like, ‘Oh (no), I have to get this.’ He (Riener) was a nice guy."

Gallagher made a diving save on a shot by Yanez earlier in the match and Bugliari got his head on another promising shot that sailed inches over the crossbar.

With its win on Tuesday, CBA has earned its place in a third straight NJSIAA Non-Public A championship game. The Colts will face Seton Hall Prep for a third straight season, with the two rivals splitting each of the last two NJSIAA Non-Public A finals. Seton Hall Prep won the 2021 final, 2-0, and CBA won last year's game, 1-0.

Last year's championship win over Seton Hall Prep ended with a game-winning goal that came in the final five minutes of regulation or later -- the fourth such game for CBA in its last five state tournament games.

"It’s tough to win," Mulligan said. "Sometimes, you may lack a little bit of firepower on the left or the right or the middle or a dominant goal-scorer, but the defense is consistent, the effort is always consistent and the attitude from the touch line is always the same. It seems like that is the formula for our success, along with some very talented players that believe in each other out there."

Box Score

CBA 1, Pingry 0

Pingry (17-2-1)0000
CBA (17-2-2)0011

Goals (Assists): (CBA) Lawrence Mancino (John Gambale) 86'
Shots: CBA, 8-7
Saves: (P) Sebastian Martinez 4; (CBA) Miles Gallagher 4

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