Bewilderment, anger, disappointment, despair – all of those emotions raged for the West Genesee boys lacrosse team as, around them, Baldwinsville celebrated its first Section III Class A championship in 25 years.
The Wildcats’ 9-8 loss to the Bees in Thursday night’s sectional final at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium proved memorable on many fronts, but the memories for WG centered around missed opportunities and a scoring play that will long be disputed.
Deep into the fourth quarter, WG was in front, 8-7, having taken the lead on Max Rosa’s goal less than two minutes after Mike Tangredi converted to end a B’ville drought that stretched back to the second period.
B’ville possessed the ball and, with 7:30 left, Matt Dickman, who had scored the overtime goal to beat Fayetteville-Manilus in the semifinals two nights earlier, sent a back-handed shot wringing off the post.
Or at least that’s what the Wildcats thought.
Officials ruled that Dickman’s shot had crossed the goal line before the ricochet, and WG fumed about it. Just 48 seconds later, there was more reason to get angry when Austin Bolton beat Luke Staudt for the goal that put B’ville back in front.
There was still ample time for the Wildcats to pull back even, and it forced a turnover in the final minute. But two potential tying shots flew wide, and a turnover with less than 10 seconds left gave Bees goalie Frank Delia a chance to fling the ball high in the air far enough to allow the remaining clock to run out.
Having beaten B’ville twice in the regular season, WG had no real reason to expect a different outcome here. After all, the Bees had required OT to get past F-M, while the Wildcats had blasted Liverpool 16-2 in its sectional semifinal.
Yet early goal by Ryan Sheehan and Jay Considine got quickly answered, and then Spencer Wirtheim hit on back-to-back shots, one of them behind the back, to give the Bees its first lead of the night. Wirtheim scored again in the second quarter after Ryan Gebhardt converted to make it 6-2.
For more than 18 minutes, WG was kept off the board. Jack Howes broke that drought, and the Wildcats went on to dominate the third quarter, helped by Manny Castro’s success in the face-off circle as Howes, Considine and Kevin Sheehan converted before Ryan Sheehan’s goal produced a 7-6 lead.
Just like it did against F-M, though, the Bees utilized a zone defense that kept the Wildcats from getting too many close-up looks and slowed down momentum, all of which set up a fourth quarter that will get long talked about – but for different reasons.
This provided quite the contrast to WG’s semifinal rout of Liverpool. Going in, the Warriors, who had erased a nine-goal third-quarter deficit to stun Syracuse in the previous round, knew that it could not afford to cede much ground against the Wildcats, who didn’t have to play in the opening round of the tournament, were well-rested – and, as it would show, were anything but rusty.
It took barely two minutes for WG to get on the board with Ryan Sheehan’s goal. Kevin Sheehan made it 2-0 less than two minutes later. The Wildcats were owning the face-off circle, rarely letting the Warriors possess the ball in the opening minutes.
Considine took over, netting a goal and, with 0.2 seconds left in the first quarter, feeding it to Noah Sabatino for a goal that stretched the margin to 4-0. Considine, who would finish with four goals and two assists, scored twice more in the second period.
It was 8-0 before Kyle Caves finally put Liverpool on the board with 3:40 left in the half. Still, WG made it 9-1 by halftime, and started another breakout with a goal 12 seconds into the third quarter.
All game long, the Warriors found it difficult to gain any sustained possession, and Caves’ goals were the only tallies of the night saves. Right behind Considine, Howes and Kevin Sheehan both earned three goals and two assists. Ryan Smith and Pat McDonald had single goals, as did Jack Delaney and David McCarthy, with Rosa and Tyler Palmer earning assists.
The quest for a 34th sectional title ended two nights later, leaving WG to ponder what will take place in 2018, which head coach Mike Messere has already said will be his final season on the Wildcats’ sidelines.