Jun 05, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Even though it is young and still in the process of learning all the finer traits of the game, the Skaneateles boys lacrosse team has mastered the art of seizing control of a game when the stakes are high.
That’s what the Lakers did in the second quarter against Westhill in the Section III Class C quarterfinals with four unanswered goals. That what it pulled off again in a stirring fourth-quarter comeback to stun state no. 1-ranked LaFayette in the semifinal round.
And in the pressure cooker of last Wednesday’s Class A title game at Coyne Field, Skaneateles once again found the opportune time to put an opponent away — and in the process, claimed its first sectional championship since 2002.
In this case, it took the form of a third-quarter outburst, sustained and substantial, as six consecutive goals turned a tense, nervous affair with two-time defending champion Christian Brothers into an eventual 11-7 victory.
Senior captain Eric Richards said it was difficult trying to compare this team to the last Laker sectional champs, which went all the way to the state finals six years ago.
“This championship means a lot,” he said. “We may not have the (star) players they had (in 2002), but we worked as a team to get here.”
Head coach Ron Doctor said that what separated these Lakers from the teams that, in recent years, always seemed to come up short in Class C semifinal or championship games was the players’ inner desire to succeed.
“I can’t be happier, or prouder of them,” he said. “They want to succeed and be good at this game. That’s something that’s hard to teach. They want to perform.”
Just as the Lakers had avenged a regular-season defeat to LaFayette in the semifinals, it wanted to do the same in the championship game.
CBA had beaten Skaneateles 12-11 on April 17, the first real indication that the Brothers, despite eight new starters and a new head coach (Mike Stagnitta), had every intention of holding on to its crown. Following that, the Brothers had gone 15-4 and rolled through Lowville, New Hartford and Homer in the Class C playoffs.
Despite all the confidence the Lakers and Brothers possessed, the pressure of playing for a championship can still create nerves — as was evident through much of the first half.
Put simply, the two sides spent a long time working out early kinks, which led to turnovers and uneven play. Skaneateles sneaked ahead 2-1 late in the first quarter, but was far from comfortable.
“We had a rough start and spent a lot of time dropping passes,” said Richards. “But we came right back from that.”
The first comeback came after CBA senior Ben Ashenburg sparked a second-quarter outburst of three goals in 51 seconds that gave the Brothers a 4-2 lead. Ashenburg scored twice and assisted on Nate Frechette’s tally.
Alert to the danger, Doctor called a time-out. Just 45 seconds later, Richards scored and made it 4-2, and Keith Buehler’s tally 49 seconds after that strike forged a 4-4 tie, one that lasted until halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, it was still 4-4, the Lakers and Brothers sliding back into that same deep funk that had mired them early on.
Then, in a matter of minutes, Skaneateles made the move that secured a championship.
Patrick Emmer started the flood, scoring 5:10 into the third period to put the Lakers ahead 5-4. Then sophomore Kelly Donigan put in a goal, and Oliver Moore beat Griffin Ferrigan for a goal 22 seconds later.
Boiling hot, the Lakers kept winning face-offs, kept attacking and kept converting. Donigan hit on his third goal to make it 8-4, Tom Schoener flung a shot in the net to get it to 9-4, and Moore returned for his third goal to complete this spurt.
In all, the Lakers scored six times in a span of 6:31. Both Richards and Doctor said it was simply a matter of Skaneateles catching and passing in a way hadn’t done earlier in the game, which led to goals.
CBA would make a late push, but get no closer than four goals. Defenders Brennan Buell, Kyle McQuiggan, Jordan Markley and Lexus Johnson helped blank CBA for more than 20 minutes of game times and protected goalie Josh Kimm, who had to make just five saves.
Skaneateles will waste little time getting involved in the state tournament, going to Central Square Saturday to face undefeated Section X representative Salmon River in the opening round of the regional playoffs.