Fiorini, SP erupt for win in the rain at Brunswick

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South Portland senior David Fiorini (13) is congratulated by junior Alex Stevens after scoring one of his nine goals in Tuesday’s 21-8 victory at defending Class B champion Brunswick.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

South Portland 21 Brunswick 8

SP- 3 9 4 5- 21
B- 2 4 2 0- 8

First quarter
10:50 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
10:18 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
7:56 SP Stevens (unassisted)
5:21 B F. Mitchell (Israel)
2:55 B Lyne (F. Mitchell)

Second quarter
10:22 SP Fiorini (Mehlhorn)
9:43 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
8:50 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
8:05 B Girardin (unassisted)
7:46 SP Fiorini (Mehlhorn)
7:01 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
6:18 B Belanger (McDiarmid)
4:27 B Girardin (unassisted)
3:27 SP Tolan (unassisted)
2:21 SP Doucette (Fiorini)
1:30 SP Stevens (Mehlhorn)
1:16 B Belanger (Girardin)
1.4 SP Fiorini (Watson)

Third quarter
10:06 SP Stevens (Backman)
8:01 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
7:54 SP Doan (unassisted)
6:39 B F. Mitchell (unassisted)
6:31 B Coombs (unassisted)
5:31 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)

Fourth quarter
9:20 SP Doucette (Mayone)
8:02 SP Fiorini (Mehlhorn)
5:05 SP Stevens (Fiorini)
4:28 SP Stevens (unassisted)
2:03 SP Tolan (Stevens)

Goals:
SP- Fiorini 9, Stevens 5, Doucette, Mehlhorn, Tolan 2, Doan 1
B- Belanger, Girardin, F. Mitchell 2, Coombs, Lyne 1

Assists:
SP- Mehlhorn 4, Fiorini 2, Backman, Mayone, Stevens, Watson 1
B- Girardin, Israel, McDiarmid, F. Mitchell 1

Faceoffs (South Portland, 26-5)
SP- Doan 26 of 31
B- Curtis 2 of 14, Coombs 2 0f 8, Duffy 1 of 5, Lopez 0 of 3, Upham 0 of 1

Ground balls:
SP- 55
B- 28

Turnovers:
SP- 23
B- 19

Shots:
SP- 58
B- 27

Shots on cage:
SP- 37
B- 17

Saves:
SP (Watson) 9 
B (Pendergast) 16 

Time: 1:34

BRUNSWICK—After suffering through a midseason slump, South Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team is hoping to finish the regular season strong and the Red Riots took a huge step in that direction Tuesday afternoon at defending Class B state champion Brunswick.

Despite miserable weather and having their arrival delayed by an accident on the highway.

And thanks in large part to a career game from senior standout David Fiorini.

South Portland went on top to stay when Fiorini scored 70 seconds in and senior Cooper Mehlhorn and junior Alex Stevens followed with unassisted tallies for a quick 3-0 lead.

The Dragons answered behind goals from seniors Finn Mitchell and Nolan Tyne to pull within a goal after one quarter, but the second period belonged to the Red Riots.

More specifically, to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell bound Fiorini.

Fiorini scored three quick goals to open it up, then added three more goals in the frame, including one with 1.4 seconds to go, and South Portland enjoyed a 12-6 lead at halftime.

When Stevens, Fiorini and senior faceoff standout Josh Doan opened the second half with goals, the competitive phase of the contest was over and the Red Riots gradually pulled away to prevail in surprisingly emphatic fashion, 21-8.

Fiorini had a career-high nine goals, one shy of the program record, Stevens scored five times and Doan won 26 faceoffs as South Portland improved to 7-3 on the season and in the process, dropped Brunswick to 8-3.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Fiorini, who also had a pair of assists. “I love playing lacrosse like this. It gets a little muddy and everyone slips around. We just had to work hard.”

Play ball

While many games were canceled Tuesday, Brunswick and South Portland made the decision to play on, but to move the start time from evening to afternoon.

This one had big implications for both squads, who are hoping to finish as high as possible in their respective regions.

Brunswick opened by doubling up host Gardiner, 16-8, rolling at Lewiston, 14-5, taking apart visiting Cony, 26-1, then handling visiting Edward Little, 16-1, before holding on for a 12-11 victory at Scarborough and edging host Morse, 15-11. The Dragons fell from the unbeaten ranks with an 11-8 loss at Greely, in a Class B state game rematch, then returned to the win column in style, dominating visiting Messalonskee, 23-3, before giving longtime coach Don Glover his 300th career win with a 12-9 home victory over defending Class A North champion Falmouth. Last Wednesday, the Dragons rolled at Maranacook, 13-8.

South Portland started with a 17-1 win at Deering, then handled visiting Cheverus by the same score before holding off visiting Yarmouth, 13-12, and downing visiting Falmouth, 13-9. South Portland was then upset in overtime at Kennebunk 11-10, before bouncing back with a vengeance, 28-0, at Sanford. Losses to visiting Cape Elizabeth (16-7) and at defending Class A champion Thornton Academy (20-6) followed before the Red Riots righted the ship Friday with a 21-8 victory at Gorham.

The teams met in both in the 2014 and 2015 Class A state finals.

South Portland won its lone title over the Dragons in the first meeting, 10-8, while Brunswick got a measure of revenge the following year, prevailing, 13-9

The only other countable meeting between the squads came last spring, when Charlie Cronin’s overtime goal gave the host Red Riots a palpitating 10-9 victory.

Tuesday, on a chilly (45 degrees) afternoon, with a steady rain coming down, South Portland didn’t need overtime. The Red Riots took care of business long before then.

Doan actually lost the opening faceoff to junior Chandler Coombs, but Brunswick couldn’t keep possession of the ball and South Portland went on top to stay with 10:50 to play in the first quarter, as Fiorini went one-on-one with Dragons senior goalie Connor Pendergast and finished with a high shot.

Doan won the next faceoff and Mehlhorn got in the scoring column unassisted 32 seconds later.

Then, after Pendergast denied Fiorini on three consecutive shots, Stevens finished unassisted with 7:56 remaining in the first quarter for a 3-0 advantage.

Brunswick got on the board with 5:21 left, as after a turnover, junior Ben Israel set up Mitchell for a shot which Red Riots senior goalie Quinn Watson couldn’t stop.

The Dragons’ second goal was set up by a long run from Pendergast, who raced into the offensive zone, drew the defense, then passed to Mitchell, who set up Lyne to cut the deficit to 3-2.

But just when it appeared Brunswick had the game settled down, Fiorini broke loose in the second period to help South Portland open up a healthy lead.

Seconds after Mehlhorn hit the crossbar, Mehlhorn got the ball back and set up Fiorini for a 4-2 lead with 10:22 left in the half.

Fiorini then weaved through the Dragons’ defense before finishing unassisted 39 seconds later.

With 8:50 to go, Fiorini scored unassisted again and the Red Riots’ advantage was four.

Senior Nate Girardin momentarily stemmed the tide for Brunswick, scoring unassisted with 8:05 on the clock, but out of a timeout, Mehlhorn heaved a long pass to Fiorini who finished with 7:46 to go.

Forty-five seconds later, Fiorini scored unassisted, his sixth goal, and the lead was 8-3.

The Dragons answered, as junior Jack McDiarmid set up senior Jacob Belanger with 6:18 on the clock and out of a timeout, Girardin scored again with 4:27 remaining to cut the deficit to three.

That’s as close as Brunswick would get, as sophomore Nick Tolan scored on a rebound with 3:27 left, Fiorini passed to Doucette for a goal with 2:21 remaining, then after a pretty spin move, Stevens, who had gotten the ball from Mehlhorn, beat Pendergast to make it 11-5 with 1:30 on the clock.

Belanger scored (from Girardin) with 1:16 to go in the half, but as time wound down, Watson launched the ball all the way downfield, hoping it might find a teammate’s stick and sure enough, Fiorini caught the ball in front and scored with just 1.4 seconds remaining for a commanding 12-6 advantage.

Fiorini had seven first half goals and Doan won 15 of 19 faceoffs.

The Red Riots scored three quick goals in the third quarter, as junior Bram Backman set up Stevens with 10:06 remaining, Fiorini scored unassisted on the run with 8:01 to go and Doan won the ensuing faceoff and raced in and scored seven seconds later for a 15-6 lead.

“I just clear my head and focus on the ball,” said Doan. “Possession is the most important thing in this game. Especially games like this. If I see a path to the net, I’ll take it whenever I can.”

Mitchell got a goal back unassisted with 6:39 remaining, then Brunswick won the ensuing faceoff and Coombs raced in and scored eight seconds later to make it 15-8, but the Dragons wouldn’t score again.

A minute later, Mehlhorn scored and the lead was eight after three quarters.

With 9:20 to play, Doucette scored his second goal, from junior Harrison Mayone and with 8:02 on the clock, Fiorini scored his ninth and final goal, and it was one for the highlight reel, as Mehlhorn fed him with a behind the back pass.

Down the stretch, Stevens scored twice (once from Fiorini and once unassisted) and Tolan added a goal from Stevens to put the finishing touches on the 21-8 victory.

“We worked well as a team together, especially in the second half,” Doan said. “We have our ups and downs, but this was a really good team win. I think we showed everybody how good we can be.”

“We hit a slump midway through the season and everyone knew they had to pick their games up,” Fiorini said. “I’m just working harder and everyone is working harder to make each other better. We came out slow today because of the weather, but we knew we had to pick it up. We got better every quarter.”

“Brunswick’s always a great team,” added South Portland coach Tom Fiorini. “They have great players and Don is a great coach. We just had a better day today. We’re 100 percent now and that makes a world of difference for us.”

Fiorini fell one goal short of the program-record of 10 goals in a game, set by Thomas Leddy against Biddeford in 2014.

“It’s safe to say that David had a good day,” said Tom Fiorini, who is also David Fiorini’s father. “His knee was bothering him, but he’s back healthy now and showed what he can do.”

Stevens added five goals and an assist, Doucette, Mehlhorn (four assists) and Tolan all scored twice and Doan had one goal.

Backman, Mayone and Watson all had one assist.

Watson made nine saves.

Doan was sensational in the faceoff circle, winning 26 of 31 chances.

“Josh has worked really hard,” Tom Fiorini said. “He’s come a long way. I’m very happy for him.”

The Red Riots dominated statistically, holding a 55-28 advantage in ground balls (Doan had a game-high 19) and a 58-27 edge in shots (37-17 on cage). South Portland overcame 23 turnovers.

Brunswick got two goals each from Belanger, Girardin and Mitchell. Coombs and Lyne both score once.

Girardin, Israel, McDiarmid and Mitchell all had one assist.

Pendergast stopped 16 shots.

Coombs had a team-high six ground balls.

The Dragons turned the ball over 19 times.

“(South Portland’s) a really good team,” Glover said. “We knew we’d have our hands full coming in. They were gritty and they wanted it. The key stat was ground balls. It came down to sloppy play all over the field. Whoever got the ground balls would have opportunities. We always preach to the kids when you play in conditions like this, the advantage goes to the offensive players. They did a great job getting the ball on the wings, making a move and we’d slip and slide.”

Finish strong

Brunswick (currently third behind Greely and Yarmouth in the Class B Heal Points standings)) doesn’t have much time to dwell on the loss, as it closes at home with Mt. Ararat Wednesday.

“We’ll have a nice Brunswick-Mt. Ararat game tomorrow,” Glover said. “Hopefully the field will be usable. This hurts and there are things we need to reflect on. I said to the team that we need to get through the first season, then we’ll have the second season and we’ll have to modify things and play a little harder.”

South Portland is ranked fourth in the Class A South Heal Points standings and closes with a home game versus Scarborough Wednesday and a contest at Cheverus Friday.

The Red Riots hope to continue to climb and peak when it matters most.

“This is big, but we know we can keep getting better,” David Fiorini said. 

“This is a big win to get us back on track,” Tom Fiorini said. “We have two games left, including a big one tomorrow and we can’t have a letdown because Scarborough has our number. I think the kids have finally figured out how to play a 48-minute game.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Brunswick junior Chandler Coombs sends South Portland senior Rowen Gotts flying after a collision.

Brunswick senior Nuri Rosen defends South Portland senior Cooper Mehlhorn.

Brunswick junior Chandler Coombs hounds South Portland freshman Cullen Adams.

South Portland senior Josh Doan keeps the ball away from Brunswick senior Nate Curtis after winning a faceoff. Doan won 26 of 31 opportunities.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.