Atlas claims No. 1 seed with 31-26 takedown of Archers

By Lauren Merola | Feb 24, 2023

The (Romar Dennis) show must go on.

The Atlas midfielder sunk four two-point goals and one one-pointer to lead the Bulls past the Archers 31-26 in the final regular-season game of the Championship Series round-robin tournament on Friday. With the win, Atlas claims the No. 1 seed in Saturday’s semifinals at The St. James in Springfield, Va.

In the first three games of the Championship Series, Dennis hit 10 two-pointers and three single-point goals.

“His athleticism is outstanding,” Atlas head coach Steven Brooks said. “His big physicality down the alleys puts a lot of pressure on teams because you got to get on his hands, but he’s also skilled enough to get past a shorty.”

With two minutes left to play, and four scoreless possessions by the Archers, Atlas attackman Marc O’Rourke and Dennis sank back-to-back two bombs to put Atlas up 31-25. The Bulls would run down the clock on their next touches to secure the win.

The Archers went on a 4-0 run at the end of the second quarter to tie the game at 14 heading into the half. Atlas opened up the third quarter down a sub without defender Koby Smith, who was ruled out of the game with a lower body injury. Brooks had no update on Smith postgame, adding if Smith sat out of the semifinal game, the Bulls would play with nine field players. In the Championship Series, teams aren’t allowed to add a reserve player to the active roster unless they’re down two players.

Both teams came out fast and furious in the first quarter. Smith sunk the first of the game and his first of the Championship Series to give Atlas the quick 1-0 lead. Dennis sunk two twos and Archers attackman Marcus Holman countered with one of his own to complete the quarter at 8-7.

In the first quarter, due to the two-ball, the Archers made more shots but posted fewer points. The Archers took eight more shots than Atlas on the game, but Atlas shot 54.5% compared to the Archers’ 44.2%.

“It's weird. It’s bizarre. We all felt like we were playing better than them at the end of the first half,” Archers attackman Grant Ament said. “Our message was to continue to buckle in and continue to score ones.”

“It’s the great equalizer, that two-point arc,” Atlas midfielder Dox Aitken said. “We're happy to have it, for sure.”

Ament finished with nine points (3G, 6A). Matt Moore added seven points (1G, 2T, 2A) and Holman had six (3G, 1T, 1A).

In goal, Atlas’ Jack Concannon set a hot streak in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 15 saves (39.5%). For the Archers, Brendan Krebs (22.2%) and Nick Washuta (33.3%) combined for nine steals.

Atlas scored seven two-pointers compared to the Archers’ three, continuing the Bulls’ two-point tear throughout the Championship Series.

“The game plan is to get out into their gloves and cause as much disruption as humanly possible. I look at it more from an offensive standpoint and Jack Concannon got 15 saves,” Ament said. “We hit him in the foot a few times, we hit him in the helmet a few times. It’s not necessarily beating up on ourselves too much defensively, but more for me, as an offensive player, that’s where I take the ownership and say we could’ve been tighter and made better decisions earlier in the shot clock that would’ve helped us down the stretch.”

Top-ranked Atlas plays the No. 4 seed at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday. The No. 2 Archers follow suit, taking on the No. 3 seed, at 7 p.m.