Deja vu for SP lax; Both teams blow leads, lose playoff games in OT

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SOUTH PORTLAND—Anyone who doesn’t believe that history repeats itself should have been at Martin Memorial Field Wednesday afternoon/evening.

First, the South Portland girls’ lacrosse team, coming off its best regular season to date, seeded fourth in Western Class A and hoping to advance to the semifinals for the first time, was close enough to taste that goal coming to fruition, leading visiting No. 5 seed Thornton Academy, 11-8, late in the second half.

Then, somehow, some way, the Golden Trojans managed to rally, improbably tying the score with 0.3 seconds remaining, before eking out a 13-12 overtime win.

If that wasn’t hard enough for the home folks to swallow, the boys’ team, also ranked fourth in Western A, found itself in a similarly comfortable position against visiting No. 5 Marshwood a couple hours later, up, 8-5, in the fourth period.

Then, lightning struck again as the Hawks scored three times in the final 5:47, drawing even with 36.6 seconds to go, then winning it 1 minute, 32 seconds into “sudden victory” OT, 9-8.

Just like that, both Red Riots squads are done for the year.

So close

The South Portland girls tied the 2004 team for the best record in program history, but the quality of this team was without peer in school annals. The Red Riots won 10 of 12 outings, outscoring the opposition by an average of 15-9 behind an extremely athletic group. South Portland twice was pushed into overtime, but both times emerged triumphant.

Thornton Academy, meanwhile, wound up 7-5, good for the No. 5 seed in the region. The Golden Trojans passed their one overtime test, edging Massabesic,

The teams did not play this year.

Last spring, in the only other playoff meeting, Thornton Academy eliminated South Portland, 8-4, in the quarterfinals.

The visitors broke the ice when sophomore Kendra Ermold scored unassisted, going coast to coast, 1 minute, 3 seconds into the 25-minute first half. The Red Riots drew even with 20:43 to go when senior Felicia Farnham threaded a pretty pass to senior Becca Roberts for a goal.

With 18:39 remaining before halftime, Thornton Academy went up 2-1 when junior Michelle Giroux beat Red Riots sophomore goalie Kirsten Kane unassisted. Off the ensuing draw win, junior Anh Nguyen scored unassisted to tie it and with 16:17 left in the half, Farnham set up Roberts again for a goal and a 3-2 advantage.

The Golden Trojans tied the game with 11:38 to go in the half when sophomore Katelyn Pierson scored unassisted. The Red Riots answered a little over a minute later when Roberts scored (from Nguyen). When senior Victoria Brookings scored unassisted with 9:06 left before halftime, it was 5-3, but the hosts wouldn’t score again in the half.

Thornton Academy drew even by halftime thanks to two goals from Pierson (one unassisted, one from senior Jackie Costello).

The first half stats were almost identical as each team turned the ball over 12 times, had 10 shots on goal and three saves. South Portland had a slim 6-5 edge in draw controls.

When Giroux scored on a free position 2:30 into the second half, the Golden Trojans had a 6-5 lead, but the Red Riots roared back.

Just 43 seconds later, Farnham was credited for a goal after McCarthy let the ball slip off her stick and into the cage, tying the score at 6-6.

That gave South Portland momentum and the hosts went back on top with 20:39 to play when Nguyen, undaunted by missing an open net seconds earlier, got the ball back, raced in on McCarthy and beat her with a shot.

Thornton Academy tied the score at 7-7 with 19:30 remaining when Giroux scored unassisted, but LaPlante (on a pretty catch and shoot from Farnham) scored 20 seconds later to seemingly put the Red Riots on top to stay.

With 17:26 showing, Nguyen threw a pass toward the cage and somehow it trickled through untouched for a goal and a 9-7 advantage. Then, with 13:05 to play, Farnham again set up LaPlante for a goal and a 10-7 lead.

With 10:19 to play, sophomore Amanda Cook scored for the visitors, but with 9:47 left, Brookings scored unassisted and South Portland was up, 11-8.

It wasn’t enough.

The Golden Trojans began their comeback with 8:45 to go as senior Erin Kany beat Kane to make it 11-9. Kane robbed Kany with 5:25 remaining and with 1:45 showing, Pierson shot wide.

Then, with just 1:25 to go, Kany scored unassisted and it was a one-goal game, 11-10.

The Red Riots won the ensuing draw control, but gave the ball away.

With 33 seconds to play, Giroux looked to tie the score, but shot wide. As time wound down, Brookings intercepted a pass, but with 4.3 seconds showing, South Portland turned the ball over and Thornton Academy took over in the Red Riots’ zone with one final chance.

Kany would promptly pass to Pierson, who fired and tickled the twine.

“The last play to tie it, when Erin Kany had the ball and gave it up, that’s senior leadership right there,” said Thornton Academy coach Craig Agreste.

The clock showed 0.3 seconds and the game was tied, 11-11.

It was on to overtime.

“I think the girls got a little tired,” South Portland coach Bill Fenton said. “I think it was the heat and the competition was good. It was a 4-5 game. We expected them to be good. We tried to keep possession and the next thing we knew, we lost possession. The exact same thing happened to us when we played Portland (a 15-14, triple OT win on May 26). They scored with three seconds to go. We’d been there before and that’s what we talked about.”

“Honestly, I think there was a momentum shift,” Agreste said. “We battled back. My girls have battled all year. It was worth it to see the smiles on the girls’ faces. It was awesome. We have girls who have had success in the program. We have new girls as well.”

In high school girls’ lacrosse overtime, teams play two three-minute periods to determine a winner. If the score remains tied, a “sudden victory” session is needed.

It wouldn’t be in this game.

Even though the Golden Trojans seemingly had all the momentum, South Portland went up 12-11 33 seconds into the OT when Brookings scored unassisted.

Little the Red Riots know, that would be the final goal of their season.

Exactly a minute later, Thornton Academy retied the score when Kany scored an unassisted goal.

Kane denied Costello on a free position to keep the score tied heading for the second portion of overtime.

There, with 2:12 to go, LaPlante had a great look to put her team back on top, but McCarthy denied it.

“It was definitely a turning point,” Fenton lamented.

Then, after the teams traded turnovers, the Golden Trojans got the winner.

It came with 39.5 seconds left as Giroux converted a free position, beating Kane with her shot.

“I wasn’t even thinking about the time,” said Giroux. “Just the ball, the goalie and the net and what I had to do to get it in. I wait to see where the defenders are lined up. I was nervous. I thought the goalie had the ball and it wasn’t going to go in. Then it went in and I was so surprised. It was awesome.”

The Red Riots still had a chance to answer if they could win the draw, but it wasn’t to be. The visitors earned possession and ran out the clock on the palpitating 13-12 decision.

“We were just thinking give it our all and never give it up,” Giroux said. “It’s playoffs. We knew it was an even game. We had a fair shot. We were pushing a lot. We’d been in overtime before. We knew what it was like.”

“We kept talking about games being won or lost on the draw circle,” Agreste said. “We knew that was where the game was won. Both teams realized that. We were fortunate enough to make plays down the stretch. We waited all game to do it.”

Giroux led all scorers with four goals. Kany and Pierson each had three, Cook a pair and Ermold one. Costello and Kany each had an assist. Pierson led the team in ground balls with 11. Kany grabbed seven, Giroux and junior Emily Fejedelem five each. McCarthy made eight saves.

South Portland was paced by three goals each from Brookings, Nguyen and Roberts. Laplante scored twice, Farnham once. Farnham also had four assists, Nguyen one. Laplante finished with a mind-boggling 18 ground balls. Farnham grabbed six, Brookings and Nguyen five each. Kane stopped seven shots.

The Red Riots wound up winning 15 of 28 draws, but the Golden Trojans got four of the five in overtime. Brookings won 8 of 13, Laplante 7-of-15. For Thornton Academy, Costello captured 10 of 19 opportunities and Giroux went 3 for 9.

South Portland turned the ball over 29 times, to 26 for the Golden Trojans. The Red Riots had a slim edge in ground balls, 56-55. Shots were dead-even, 24-24, as were shots on cage (20-20).

“My goalie did a heck of a job today,” Fenton said. “The kids played their hearts out. Both teams played great D. There’s not much separation between the teams. I thought we had it. We just made some mistakes. The girls all played a great game.”

South Portland finishes 10-3.

“We’ve come a long way from last year,” Fenton said. “It’s the first time in a long time (since 2004) we’ve hosted a playoff game. We sure had a great run. It’s a great group of girls to be with. I wouldn’t trade a single one of them for anyone else in the league. They were awesome. I just wish we could have gone to Scarborough.”

Thornton Academy (8-5) will go to Scarborough for the Western A semifinals Saturday (at 2:30 p.m.). The Golden Trojans lost, 7-2, at the defending state champion Red Storm May 16. The lone prior playoff meeting between the schools resulted in an 11-3 Scarborough win in the 2007 quarterfinals.

Thornton Academy will go in confident.

“My feeling is that we’re even teams,” Giroux said. “Everyone goes in 0-0.”

“We have nothing to lose,” Agreste added. “We’ll see where it takes us. We hung with them the first time. We had chances. We have to make the chances count against a good team like that.”

Not again!

The South Portland boys’ then took the field, battling Marshwood.

The Red Riots posted a 7-5 mark this spring, overcoming a slow start and seemingly hitting their stride as they got healthy at the end of the year.

The Hawks, just two years removed from a second consecutive 0-12 campaign and one year removed from a 1-11 season, went 7-5 this spring.

On May 21, South Portland edged visiting Marshwood, 9-8. The teams had no playoff history entering Wednesday’s game.

Play was sloppy in the first period (nine turnovers apiece) and offenses struggled to find their way.

Marshwood did grab a 1-0 lead just 1 minute, 42 seconds in when junior Justin Hockney set up sophomore Austin Hale for a shot which eluded South Portland senior goalie Connor Igo. The Red Riots drew even midway through the first when junior Mike Salvatore scored unassisted. Senior Brian Cleary did the same thing with 2:43 to go, beating Hawks junior goalie Mark Taylor, and it was 2-1 hosts after one.

Marshwood tied the game with 9:21 to play in the half when senior Andrew Rollins set up junior Jeff Hatheway, but with 5:46 showing, just after a penalty expired on the Hawks,freshman Thomas Leddy corralled a loose ball in front and shot past Taylor for a 3-2 advantage.

With 3:04 remaining before halftime, Keithly got in the scoring column, unassisted. With 1:41 to go, Cleary struck unassisted for the second time and it was 5-2. The Hawks called timeout, but it didn’t help as with 59.9 seconds left, Keithly raced around the crease and beat Taylor unassisted for a 6-2 lead, which stuck (thanks to a great point blank save from Igo seconds later) until the break.

Marshwood came out hot in the second half as Rollins took a pass from Hatheway and scored 34 seconds in. Then, with 10:39 remaining in the third period, Rollins beat two defenders, got Igo out of position and scored an easy goal to cut the deficit to 6-4, inducing the Red Riots to call timeout.

It didn’t help.

Rollins struck again unassisted with 9:09 remaining in a man-up situation and drew another penalty in the process.

“Andrew’s a senior, all-conference honorable mention,” said Marshwood coach Ralph Ruocco. “He’s our leader. He wants the ball in crunch time. He scored three quick goals in the second half. We gave him the game ball.”

South Portland stretched its lead to 7-5 when Cleary (from senior Robert Hannigan) scored with 5:07 left.

In the fourth, the Red Riots seemingly put it away, but it wasn’t to be.

With 10:30 to play, Keithly, despite being mugged on the play, fought off two defenders and beat Taylor for an 8-5 lead.

South Portland wouldn’t score again.

Marshwood began to rally with 5:47 to go when senior T.J. Osborne scored unassisted. With 2:09 remaining, Rollins scored an unassisted goal and suddenly it was an 8-7 contest.

The Hawks won the ensuing faceoff, but turned the ball over. The Red Riots gave it right back and with 36.6 seconds to go in regulation, Rollins set up junior Jeff Graunke for a shot which Igo partially stopped, but not enough to keep the ball from going into the cage to tie the score at 8-8.

Marshwood almost won the game in the waning seconds, but an Osborne shot went just wide and Hatheway’s bid was deflected high.

Then, it was time for overtime.

In high school boys’ lacrosse, teams play “sudden victory,” meaning the first goal ends the game.

Each squad would get a chance, but it would be the visitors who left the field happily.

The Hawks won the faceoff, but Igo saved Hale’s shot. After the teams traded turnovers, South Portland called timeout and set up a play to end it.

It almost worked.

The ball came to Keithly, who as expected, was double teamed. Keithly found an open Salvatore, who shot just wide.

“We knew what (the Hawks) were going to do,” said South Portland coach Tom Fiorini. “We knew they’d try to double-team Harrison. I put one kid at X and one guy on the side. Where the double came from, that’s where we went with the ball. Michael had a good shot. That’s what we wanted. Sometimes the kids put it in. Sometimes they don’t.”

“We pulled the defense aside and said, ‘Don’t let them score, we need the ball back,'” Ruocco said. “‘We got it and it was unbelievable.”

After Hale won a ground ball, Marshwood transitioned for the winner. It would be Rollins setting the table, finding sophomore Matt Scremin in close and Scremin shot past a hapless Igo to end it.

“There was a little seam on the right and I went for it,” said Rollins. “There was a quick slide from the D and when he came, I dished it off to Scremin and he did a nice job finishing it off. It’s the same exact play we scored on earlier in the game. At first, when I scored those three, they didn’t slide as fast, but they started sliding, so I dished it more.”

Hawks 9 Red Riots 8.

“They scored a goal late (in the regular season game) and we knew had to put the pedal to the medal more than ever and it turned out in our favor,” said Rollins. “We were down and coach told us to keep our heads up. We were down three goals twice in the regular season game and we knew we could come back. We kept fighting.”

“It was a good matchup to start with,” added Ruocco. “We played earlier in the season and it was just like this. We learned a lot. Our goal was to try and slow down (Keithly). Our kids never quit. We had to knock on the door and when we got to the door, kick it in. They never gave it up, believed in each other and they did. That’s how we’ve played the last six games. We had a tough first six. The first half was our worst lacrosse, but we came back and it was unbelievable.”

Rollins led all scorers with four goals and added three assists. Graunke, Hale, Hatheway, Osborne and Scremin had one goal each. Hatheway and Hockney also had one assist. Rollins led the team with nine ground balls. Hockney grabbed eight, junior defender Derek Johnson and Scremin both collected six. Taylor made 10 saves.

For South Portland, Cleary and Keithly both had three goals, Leddy and Salvatore one. Hannigan had the team’s lone assist. Cleary and Salvatore both grabbed eight ground balls, Hannigan had seven, senior defender Tommy Ellis six. Igo stopped eight shots.

The Red Riots wound up winning 11 of 20 faceoffs. Junior Joey DiBiase won 10 of 19 chances. Salvatore was victorious in his lone effort in the circle. Scremin finished 9 of 20 for the Hawks.

Marshwood had a slight edge in ground balls (57-54). South Portland forced 30 turnovers (while giving the ball away 25 times), outshot the Hawks, 35-28, and had an 18-17 advantage in shots on cage.

The Red Riots finished 7-6 and lamented the one that got away.

“The bottom line is we only played one out of four quarters,” Fiorini said. “We played the second quarter and when we played the second quarter, we dominated the game. The other three quarters, we played with them and they showed heart and did what they had to do to win the game. Give those kids credit.

“We made a lot of mental mistakes. Penalties, trying to run through guys instead of moving the ball and that hurt the team today. We dominated the game at halftime. I don’t understand how we didn’t finish. The bottom line is we didn’t finish. We struggled on offense all year. I thought we came out of it that past couple games, but we sort of slid into our bad habits. We’re a better, smarter team than that. We just didn’t play well today.”

South Portland loses 14 seniors, most notably Cleary, Hannigan, Igo and Keithly.

“Harrison, in my opinion, is one of the top five players in the state of Maine,” said Fiorini. “Losing him will be hard. I’ll miss that kid. I was thinking today, when they announced, ‘Goal by No. 4.” I’ve heard that for four years non-stop. It’ll be hard giving that up.

“With that said, I know I have some good teams coming up and I’m looking forward to it. I’m already looking forward to next season, even though I’m not over this game. We should have won this game today. We really wanted another crack at Scarborough. We felt with Harrison and with our offense clicking, we could have played with them.”

Marshwood earns a crack at the top-ranked, 11-1 defending Class A champion Red Storm (Saturday, 12 p.m.). The teams didn’t play in the regular season. The Hawks won the two prior playoff meetings, 16-4, in the 2002 preliminary round and 8-6 in the 2004 quarterfinals, the last time Marshwood advanced this deep.

“It’s awesome,” said Rollins. “The two years before last year we won no games. Last year, we were 1-11. The last time we made playoffs was 2004. Coach Ruocco’s done a great job turning us around. Everyone’s put in a lot of effort. I’m so proud of the guys. I don’t think many people gave us much of a chance in this one. We’re ready to go there and show people. We’re not letting up at all.”

“We were 1-11 last year, so to imagine this was unbelievable,” Ruocco added. ” We don’t really know how good we are. It’s good to play the best. It will be a good test for our program and we’ll see where things lie at the end of the game.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Sidebar Elements


GIRLS’ BOX SCORE

Thornton Academy 13 South Portland 12 (OT)

TA- 5 6 1 1- 13
SP- 5 6 1 0- 12

First half
23:57 TA Ermold (unassisted)
20:43 SP Roberts (Farnham)
18:30 TA Giroux (un)
18:23 SP Nguyen (un)
16:17 SP Roberts (Farnham)
11:38 TA Pierson (un)
10:34 SP Roberts (Nguyen)
9:06 SP Brookings (un)
8:39 TA Pierson (un)
1:33 TA Pierson (Costello)

Second half
22:30 TA Giroux (free position)
21:47 SP Farnham (un)
20:39 SP Nguyen (un)
19:30 TA Giroux (un)
19:10 SP LaPlante (Farnham)
17:26 SP Nguyen (un)
13:05 SP LaPlante (Farnham)
10:19 TA Cook (un)
9:47 SP Brookings (un)
8:45 TA Kany (un)
1:25 TA Kany (un)
0.3 TA Cook (Costello)

First OT
2:27 SP Brookings (un)
1:27 TA Kany (un)

Second OT
39.5 TA Giroux (free position)

Goals:
TA- Giroux 4, Kany, Pierson 3, Cook 2, Ermold 1
SP- Brookings, Nguyen, Roberts 3, LaPlante 2, Farnham 1

Assists:
TA- Costello, Kany 1
SP- Farnham 4, Nguyen 1

Saves:
TA- (McCarthy) 8
SP- (Kane) 7

Ground balls (South Portland, 56-55)
TA- Pierson 11, Kany 7, Fejedelem, Giroux 5
SP- LaPlante 18, Farnham 6, Brookings, Nguyen 5

Draws (South Portland, 15-13)
TA- Costello 10-of-19, Giroux 3-of-9
SP- Brookings 8-of-13, LaPlante 7-of-15

Turnovers:
TA- 26
SP- 29

Shots on goal:
TA- 24
SP- 24

Shots on cage:
TA- 20
SP- 20

BOYS’ BOX SCORE

Marshwood 9 South Portland 8 (OT)

M- 1 1 3 3 1- 9
SP- 2 4 1 1 0- 8

First period
10:18 M Hale (Hockney)
6:01 SP Salvatore (unassisted)
2:43 SP Cleary (un)

Second period
9:21 M Hatheway (Rollins)
5:46 SP Leddy (un)
3:04 SP Keithly (un)
1:41 SP Cleary (un)
59l9 SP Keithly (un)

Third period
11:26 M Rollins (Hatheway)
10:39 M Rollins (un)
9:09 M Rollins (un)
5:07 SP Cleary (Hannigan)

Fourth period
10:30 SP Keithly (un)
5:47 M Osborne (un)
2:09 M Rollins (un)
36.6 M Graunke (Rollins)

Overtime
2:28 M Scremin (Rollins)

Goals:
M- Rollins 4, Graunke, Hale, Hatheway, Osborne, Scremin 1
SP- Cleary, Keithly 3, Leddy, Salvatore 1

Assists:
M- Rollins 3, Hatheway, Hockney 1
SP- Hannigan 1

Saves:
M- (Taylor) 10
SP- (Igo) 8

Ground balls (Marshwood, 57-54)
M- Rollins 9, Hockney 8, Johnson, Scremin 6
SP- Cleary, Salvatore 8, Hannigan 7, Ellis 6

Faceoffs (South Portland, 11-9)
M- Scremin 9-of-20
SP- DiBiase 10-of-19, Salvatore 1-of-1

Turnovers:
M- 30
SP- 25

Shots on goal:
M- 28
SP- 35

Shots on cage:
M- 17
SP- 18

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