WEST CHESTER -- It wasn't easy, but West Chester Henderson put the final touches on Chester County's domination of the District 1 Class AAA boys soccer playoffs.
The Warriors became the fifth county team to qualify for the Class AAA state playoffs with a 3-2 win over visiting Bensalem in the fifth-place consolation final Thursday night.
Great Valley, Downingtown West, West Chester Rustin and Conestoga were already guaranteed state berths.
Henderson, seeded fifth, had to earn its ticket to states with a win over the ninth-seeded Owls in Thursday's elimination game.
Anthony Daniele's opportunistic goal after a long clearing kick by goalie Todd Morton just 6:05 into the second half proved to be the game-winner.
Morton's kick hit the turf and took a high bounce deep in the Bensalem end of the field. Daniele, a talented striker headed to St. John's next fall, timed it just right, beat a Bensalem defender and drilled it into the net.
"We knew we had the wind with us in the second half,' said Daniele, who also scored the Warriors' opening goal 6:27 into the match. "I knew Todd could kick it three-quarters down the field, and I just anticipated the bounce over the defender.'
"When Anthony's up top, sometimes we try to catch him on the break,' added Morton, who made 11 saves and was unbeatable in the second half.
"I was able to get off a good punt with the wind, and he moved onto it. We try to do it, and it worked tonight.'
Henderson took a 2-0 lead on the early goal by Daniele, and one by Andrew Richardson with 18:24 left in the opening half.
It looked like the Warriors were going to breeze into the state playoffs.
But Bensalem gained new life when it scored two goals in a breath-taking span of just 1:22 late in the half.
Brian Kilcoyne knocked in a rebound of a shot that hit the post with 2:42 remaining, and Chris Juergensen converted with 1:20 left to knot it at two.
"We were obviously upset at halftime,' said Daniele. "The coach gave us four or five minutes to talk and get our anger out. He told us to treat it just like another game and win the next 40 minutes.'
"We have a lot of seniors who have played some major minutes and been in playoff games before,'' said Henderson coach Sean Ryan. "One thing that defines the kids at Henderson is that they're resilient.
"I'm happy for the boys because they've put in a lot of time over the winter and summer, and they're seeing it pay off now.'
Morton stopped seven shots in the second half as the Henderson defense tried to counter the long and dangerous throw-ins by Bensalem's Alec Rosenfeld. Morton's best save came with 17:49 left when he smothered a point-blank shot.
It was a solid second-half performance by the Warriors, and gave the Ches-Mont League four strong contenders for the state title.
"I'm happy for our league,' said Ryan. "Sending four teams to states says something about the quality of the players and coaches in the league. A lot of guys are putting in extra hours and time because they want to give the kids a chance to succeed.'
The Warriors will try to build on their momentum when they take on the District 3 champion in the first round of states on Tuesday at a site and time to be announced.
Cumberland Valley and Conestoga Valley will meet for the District 3 title on Saturday.
"We've been thinking about this since the preseason,' said Morton. "Everyone is even at this point. We're happy to get to states, but we're not satisfied. We want to keep pushing on.'
W.C. Henderson 3, Bensalem 2
Bensalem 2 0 -- 2
W.C. Henderson 2 1 -- 3
Bensalem goals: B. Kilcoyne, Juergensen.
Henderson goals: Daniele 2, Richardson.
Goalie saves: C. Kilcoyne (B) 3; Morton (H) 11.