Scarborough gets defensive, holds on for win at Kennebunk
KENNEBUNK—The prolific scoring ability of the Scarborough girls' lacrosse team's offense is well known.
It turns out the Red Storm can play some pretty clutch defense as well.
Thursday evening, in the latest installment of its impassioned rivalry with the Kennebunk Rams, Scarborough scored three times in the game's first four minutes, but the hosts answered and four different times drew even, the last, 7-7, with 11 minutes to play.
The Red Storm never allowed Kennebunk to go ahead, however, thanks to strong special teams play and solid defense and with 6:50 remaining, senior Kelsey Howard scored to put Scarborough on top to stay.
A goal by senior Laura Przybylowicz with just under four minutes left gave the Red Storm some breathing room and after the Rams pulled within one with a minute to go, Przybylowicz won a pivotal draw to Howard and Scarborough was able to run out the clock and win, 9-8.
Howard led the way with three goals, while classmates Przybylowicz, Mary Scott and Maggie Smith each added a pair and birthday girl junior goalie Meg Kirsch made six clutch saves to help the Red Storm improve to 10-1, dropping Kennebunk to 6-5 in the process.
"We know everyone will bring their 'A' game when they play us and (Kennebunk's) a huge rival," said Scarborough coach Marcia Wood. "Every goal they scored fueled us even more. I'm very proud of how we didn't get frazzled and played our game. It was impressive."
A young Kennebunk team has experienced its share of ups and downs in 2012.
The Rams opened with a 14-8 victory at Portland and after a 10-8 home loss to Waynflete, defeated host Westbrook (12-2), visiting Bonny Eagle (13-3) and host Sanford (11-4). Then, Kennebunk suffered a series of frustrating losses, falling at home to Marshwood in three overtimes, 10-9, at Falmouth (17-10) and at home to Massabesic, again in overtime (8-7). The Rams bounced back by outlasting host Cheverus, 16-15, then triumphed at Gorham, 18-9.
Scarborough has won the past two Class A state titles and this year's squad is a heavy favorite to do it again.
The Red Storm slipped up just once so far this spring and has often been dominant Scarborough defeated McAuley (13-0), Bonny Eagle (16-3), Yarmouth (12-5), South Portland (11-4), Massabesic (8-5) and Cheverus (11-10) before losing to Cape Elizabeth, 11-5. The Red Storm bounced back with a 7-6 victory over Thornton Academy, then dominated Gorham (17-5) and Marshwood (11-5).
Kennebunk had long frustrated Scarborough (please see sidebar), beating the Red Storm six successive times between 2003 and 2007, and after Scarborough earned its first ever win over the Rams in the 2008 regular season, shocked the Red Storm in the Western A Final. The next year, Scarborough won the regular season game, but Kennebunk wound up seeded higher and hosted and beat the Red Storm in the quarterfinals. Scarborough finally turned the tables in 2010, winning at the Rams in the regular season, then taking an 11-3 decision in the quarterfinals. Last spring, the Red Storm eked out a 12-11 regular season victory, then won again in the Western A Final, 9-6.
Thursday, Scarborough appeared primed for a big win in the game's early stages, but Kennebunk answered and the teams ended up producing a palpitating contest, one with a postseason feel.
Just 2 minutes, 4 seconds in, Smith scored unassisted for a 1-0 lead.
Fifty seconds later, Scott got in the scoring column with a free position goal.
With 21:06 left in the first half, Howard scored her first goal, taking a pass from Smith and beating Rams junior goalie Lizzie Stockbridge.
Kennebunk would get on the board with 19:34 showing when senior Alyssa Fallon scored for the first time, hinting at a big game to come.
With 16:04 to go, junior Betsy Craig spun through the defense and beat Kirsch to cut the deficit to one.
Then, with 4:46 remaining before halftime, Craig set up Fallon for the tying goal.
In what would be a game-long theme, however, the Rams couldn't get over the top.
Scarborough went back on top, 4-3, with 1:26 to go in the half when Przybylowicz scored (assisted by Smith).
Twenty-three seconds later, Smith scored on a free position, but with 25.9 seconds left, Kennebunk pulled within one on a goal by junior Rose Bryant (assisted by senior Alli Bush).
The Rams almost tied the score with 5.3 seconds to go, but Fallon was robbed point blank by Kirsch and the Red Storm took a 5-4 advantage to the break.
Both goalies came up big on five occasions in the first half to keep the game close.
Early in the second half, Kennebunk tied the score again.
With 23:52 remaining in regulation, senior Kate Graydon, seconds after re-entering the game after having to sit out two minutes for receiving a yellow card, scored unassisted to make it 5-5.
Scarborough went back up 6-5 a minute later when Scott scored on a free position.
Back came the hosts once more as Fallon scored on a free position with 19:17 to play.
The Red Storm got a free position goal from Howard at 14:22 and re-took the lead, 7-6, but Kennebunk made it 7-7 when Fallon scored on a free position with 11:07 showing.
The Rams had chances to take the lead, but couldn't dent the Scarborough defense and the Red Storm managed to go on top for good.
With 6:50 remaining, just seconds after junior Jess Meader shot just high, the ball came to Howard and Howard got a step on a defender and finished unassisted to make it 8-7.
"When they caught up, it gave us the fire to fight back and gave us something to work for, to not let them get ahead of us," Howard said. "We always go for the rebound. I got the rebound. I looked for a pass or an opening. I found the opening and took the shot."
Wood credited patience on offense for her team's success.
"We've really worked on holding the ball a little bit," Wood said. "We'll get calls, we'll get shooting space, three seconds, but we won't get it unless we hold the ball a little bit. I told them to wait for the cut and don't be frantic. We had a spurt in the second half when we threw the ball away. We had to pull it out and wait for our shot."
After a Kennebunk timeout, the Red Storm won the draw, but turned the ball over. The hosts weren't able to capitalize, however, as they also committed a turnover.
That gave Scarborough an opportunity to extend its lead and with 3:55 left in the game, Scott, on a free position, made a spin move instead of shooting, then passed to Przybylowicz, who finished, making the score 9-7.
The Rams got a draw win, but couldn't take advantage as they gave the ball away. Kennebunk did manage to force a Red Storm turnover with 1:30 showing and after Bryant's free position was denied by Kirsch, Fallon scored one final time, unassisted, and it was still very much a game, 9-8, with 1:02 to go.
The ensuing draw loomed large and Przybylowicz was able to best Graydon and Howard managed to win the ground ball giving the visitors possession.
"Every possession and every draw control is really important," Howard said. "When we control the draw, we control the game. I talked to Laura about her placing the ball. I went hard, hoping I get could get my stick there before Kennebunk and I did. That was crucial."
"Kelsey got it," said Wood. "We switched her because the draws were a mixed bag. She's very good at ground balls and ran it out of the mess."
Scarborough then ran out the clock and celebrated one of its biggest wins of the year.
"We work a lot on (running out the clock) in practice," Howard said. "It's a lot harder than we think it is. We did a great job pulling it out, settling it, being able to relax. Everyone did a great job keeping their cool. This really got us ready for playoffs. It's always an exciting game. They played really hard. We played really hard. It was a hard fought game."
"It's always sweet to win here," Wood said. "It's such a rivalry. I knew going into the game it was going to be a big game. That kind of fueled our fire a little bit."
The Red Storm displayed its offensive balance as Howard had three goals and Przybylowicz, Scott and Smith each had two. Smith assisted on two goals, while Scott set up one. Kirsch made six key saves.
"(Meg) made four key saves in the first half," Wood said. "In a one-goal game, every little thing matters."
Przybylowicz won 6 of 9 draws and Howard went 4 of 10 to give Scarborough a narrow 10-9 advantage in that crucial category.
The Red Storm also had a 27-24 edge on ground balls. Howard, Smith, seniors Kat Gadbois and Breanna Goode and junior Sarah Martens all collected four.
Scarborough's defensive effort couldn't be quantified. Martens, Goode, senior Shauni Cowan and junior Ashley Ronzo stood out.
"We were all communicating, talking, helping each other out," said Martens. "That was really a big part of the game. We knew (Meg) would back us up. We're confident in how we can play. We were focused on getting ground balls and getting it up to the offense."
"Sarah got a bunch of draws for us, which was great," said Howard. "The defense is incredible. They save us back there. Shauni talking, Bri having all those interceptions. They work really well together. They're a key part of our team."
"The defense is doing a great job," Wood added. "Their collapse is great. We're working on trying to get sticks straight up and down. Everyone does their part. Shauni has been our rock. She directs everyone where they need to be. She keeps everyone calm and sliding where they need to be. Sarah Martens getting ground balls, winning draw controls was huge. Bri Goode made some big stuffs back there on defense. The girls know even if they didn't score a goal, everything they did mattered."
Scarborough, while plagued at times in the second half, only turned the ball over 11 times. The Red Storm had a 20-18 advantage in shots (15-14 on cage).
Kennebunk's offense was paced by Fallon, who scored a game-high five times. Bryant, Craig and Graydon all had one goal. Bush and Craig had assists. Stockbridge stopped six shots. In the draw circle, Graydon went 3 of 8, Bryant 3 of 6 and sophomore Allison Truman 3 of 5. Bryant led the Rams with six ground balls, while Bush and Fallon both collected four. Kennebunk committed 14 turnovers.
"We needed to possess the ball better on offense when we had it," said Rams coach Annie Barker. "That hurt us because they got the ball and came back. We needed to play a smart game. We're working on it. We're young."
Kennebunk sits fourth in the latest Western Class A Heal Points standings. The Rams close the regular season Tuesday against Thornton Academy. Kennebunk will host at least one playoff game, but would love to move up to third to potentially avoid Scarborough until the regional final.
Regardless, the Rams will be a difficult out.
"If we beat TA, we'll have at least one home playoff game, but we hoped for more," said Barker. "Now it's do or die. There are still things we can fix. The girls are believing now."
Scarborough has the top seed locked up and will use Tuesday's Senior Night home finale with Windham as a playoff tuneup. The Red Storm will open the playoffs with a quarterfinal round game June 6.
With 12 seniors on the roster and consecutive championships under its belt, the Red Storm is bound and determined to win Class A one more time.
"We love big games at the end of the year and playoffs," said Martens. "We focus on these games. We're driven to win. We have to clean up the passes a little bit in the midfield and focus on possession. Other than that, I think we're looking really strong."
"It's always nice to play at home in the playoffs," Howard said. "We just need to keep playing like this. I know we can do it. If we keep it up, that's how we'll win a championship. We're so driven. Having been (champions) two years, we want to go back for a third year. We're excited."
"We have a quarterfinal this year," said Wood. "It's nice to not have a week-and-a-half off. I don't care where we play as long as it's on turf. I hate these grass fields. It makes a difference. We're playing well. We have a lot of threats. Our seniors are on a mission, which is nice. There's 12 of them. They better be on a mission."