Massabesic denies Cheverus' repeat bid in five OT classic
PORTLAND—It was the game that wouldn't end.
The game that no one wanted to end.
And a game that no one who took part or witnessed will ever, ever forget.
Saturday afternoon's Class A girls' lacrosse state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium pitted two teams, defending state champion Cheverus and two-time Western A champion Massabesic, that couldn't be any more evenly matched, something which played out in a 2 hour, 15 minute passion play/instant classic.
The proud and senior-laden Stags appeared repeat title-bound when dynamic senior Meredith Wilard scored three goals and assisted on another to help Cheverus open up a 4-1 lead late in the first half, but the Mustangs restored order with a pair of tallies before the break.
Massabesic tied the game 4-4 and 5-5 in the second half, then went ahead, 6-5, when senior captain Jacqueline Guillemette scored with 10:25 to go.
With the Stags being consistently stymied by the Mustangs' sensational defense and with time winding down, it looked like their reign was over, but senior standout Alex Logan, a player with a flair for the dramatic like no other, willed her team to overtime when she scored with just 19.1 seconds to play.
Then, the fun really began.
After a scoreless three-minute first overtime session, Massabesic got goals from senior standout Rayne Whitten and junior Karlie Pike in the second to again draw within the brink of a championship, but once more, Cheverus refused to cooperate.
First, Willard scored unassisted, then with a mere 11.3 seconds separating the Mustangs from the Promised Land, Willard had a breakaway shot saved by Massabesic junior goalie Megan Hill, but Logan, some how, some way soared for the rebound and fired it into the goal to save the day again.
It was on to "sudden victory" overtime and just 16 seconds in, Willard had a golden opportunity to end it, but Hill came up huge on a free position shot and the teams played on through the third overtime and after Whitten hit the post, through a fourth.
Then, suddenly, it ended with 1:22 to play in the fifth extra session, as on a free position, Guillemette passed up a shot and fed Pike, who tickled the twine to end the most amazing state final ever contested within state borders, giving the Mustangs an epic 9-8 triumph.
Massabesic capped its season on a 15-game win streak, wound up 15-1, won its second Class A title and first since 2007 and ended the Stags' terrific season at 12-4 in the process.
"It was a crazy game," said Logan. "Unlike anything I've seen before. It was a really even game. It could have gone both ways and it did go both ways. They're a really great team and they deserve it. We know what it's like. I'm happy for them."
"You kind of feel almost shell-shocked," Mustangs coach Brooks Bowen said. "You feel good when you have the ball, but it's equally as bad when you don't. Both teams played well all over the field all game. It's a game that could have gone either way. We just happened to finish. I'm not sure there's ever been a game like this in the state championship."
We meet again
Last June, the Mustangs and Stags produced a thrilling state final, which was won by Cheverus thanks to a strong second half and an impressive late defensive stand.
The fact that the teams produced an encore didn't come as much of a surprise (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).
The Stags returned several key players and while coach Jamie Chamberlain stepped down on the eve of the season to take a leave of absence, Cheverus had an ideal replacement in Mallory Pelkey, a one-time Stags star.
On the field, Cheverus produced an abundance of drama. After winning easily over Deering and Bonny Eagle, the Stags had to dig out of a hole to prevail at Windham. A lopsided win over Portland followed before Cheverus went to Massabesic for a state final rematch/preview and dropped a 12-10 decision. After holding off visiting Thornton Academy, the Stags lost again, at Marshwood, in overtime. After an easy win at Messalonskee, Cheverus was upset at Gorham by a goal. The Stags closed strong, however, dominating visiting McAuley, beating Scarborough in an overtime thriller, then beating two-time defending Class B champion Waynflete with less than a second to go on Logan's goal.
As the top seed in Eastern A, Cheverus had little trouble advancing, ousting No. 8 Brunswick (20-5), No. 4 Windham (14-8) and second-ranked Messalonskee (13-6).
Massabesic did stumble in its opener, to visiting Kennebunk, but wouldn't lose again, beating Thornton Academy, Portland, Marshwood, Deering, Cheverus, Greely, Windham, Scarborough, Sanford, South Portland and finally Gorham to lock up the top seed in Western A.
The Mustangs had an easy time of it in the quarterfinals, blanking No. 8 Westbrook, but the road then got much tougher. In the semifinals, Massabesic held off No. 4 Marshwood by two, then, on Wednesday, in the regional final, the Mustangs got taken to overtime by second-ranked Thornton Academy, but escaped when senior captain Alexis Foglio scored to produce a 6-5 win.
Cheverus and Massabesic have quietly put together one of the more compelling rivalries on the girls' lacrosse scene, one which has eclipsed Yarmouth-North Yarmouth Academy as the state's most compelling, at least for the moment.
Since the Stags began their varsity program in 2005, the Mustangs had won 10 of 13 meetings, but none by more than three goals. Eight were decided by only one goal, with one going to overtime and another to four OTs. Cheverus did win the previous two playoff matches, however.
Saturday marked Massabesic's third trip to the big game (the Mustangs won it all in 2007, 9-7, over Brunswick), while Cheverus was making its second appearance.
The Stags hoped to go back-to-back, but the state's most consistent Class A team all spring had the final word.
A word that took seemingly forever to be pronounced.
After Logan won the opening draw, Willard hinted at a big day to come when she scored unassisted just 90 seconds in.
It didn't take long for Massabesic to answer, as sophomore Maquila Dimastrantonio converted a free position.
Cheverus junior goalie Hope Correia preserved the tie by denying a bid from Pike and sophomore Delia Sylvain followed by shooting high on a free position.
After the Mustangs committed a turnover, the Stags retook the lead, 2-1, with 10:51 left in the half, when Willard rushed in and beat Hill.
Cheverus got the ball back again on a turnover and after Willard had an initial shot saved by Hill, Willard took a pass from Logan and finished to make it 3-1 with 9:29 showing.
Correia made a save on a bid from Dimastrantonio and the Stags went back on the attack.
With 6:25 left in the half, Willard showed it's as good to give as it is to receive, as she set up Logan for a 4-1 lead.
"We knew coming in, it would probably be a very defensive game since it was last year," Logan said. "We tried to gain momentum when we could."
When Logan won the ensuing draw, it appeared Cheverus was on the verge of taking a healthy lead to the break, but the Stags turned the ball over and Massabesic began to crawl back.
After Correia denied a free position from Sylvain, Sylvain got the ball back and finished unassisted to snap a 17 minute, 3 second drought.
After Cheverus gave the ball away again, the Mustangs drew even closer as Dimastrantonio sored unassisted with 1:58 left.
Logan won the ensuing draw and the Stags tried to milk the clock for a last shot, but again turned the ball over (their 10th of the half) and Massabesic hoped to tie before the break, but couldn't get off a shot and the score remained 4-3.
Stats were almost dead even in the first 25 minutes and that would continue in a second half which wouldn't come close to deciding anything.
Early in the second half, the Mustangs' defense continued to stymie Cheverus, as senior Elyse Caiazzo was called for a charging transgression and the Stags then threw the ball away.
"We weren't playing our game," Pelkey said. "We don't see their type of defense a lot this year. They really pressure the ball."
That set the stage for Massabesic to pull even with 19:51 remaining in regulation, as Sylvain converted a free position.
Cheverus almost answered immediately, as junior MaryKate Walsh earned a free position, but Hill made the save.
With 16;11 left, Logan put the Stags back on top, 5-4, on a free position goal, ending a 15:14 drought, but after Dimastrantonio hit the post and Correia denied Pike, Whitten took a pass from Pike and fired a one-timer into the goal with 11:50 to play, tying the contest for the third time.
And this time, the Mustangs got the next goal.
Our of a timeout, Massabesic got the ball to sophomore Sierra Arral, who passed to Guillemette, who sent a shot past Correia to make it 6-5.
The Stags pushed hard for the equalizer, but were frustrated time after time.
First, Willard had a shot saved. She then sent one high. After the Mustangs ran a couple minutes off the clock, they gave the ball back and Willard was robbed in front by Hill with 4:18 remaining.
Senior Sadie Lyons retained possession and Willard got another chance, but she shot just high on an open net with 3:15 to go.
Massabesic then got the ball back and called timeout. Out of it, the Mustangs ran the clock down to 1:06 before turning the ball over and Cheverus had one final possession.
When a free position shot from junior Abby Biegel was denied with 25.2 seconds showing, Massabesic was on the brink of a championship, but Walsh fought for a ground ball, collected it, then fed Logan, who wouldn't be denied and her shot tickled the twine to make it 6-6 with 19.1 seconds to play.
While overtime appeared a certainty, the Mustangs almost won the game in regulation.
Whitten won the draw to herself and Massabesic earned a possession, one which featured Sylvain being awarded a free position with 3.7 seconds to go.
Correia didn't let the game end then and there, however, as she denied Sylvain's shot and after Caiazzo pounced on the rebound, it was on to overtime.
In girls' lacrosse, teams play two, three-minute OTs, regardless of the score and if the game remains deadlocked at that point, then it's on to "sudden victory."
As it turned out, the six minutes would only be an appetizer.
Logan won the draw and Cheverus had the first chance, but Walsh was called for charging.
Senior defender Mary Kate Slattery then forced a turnover and the Stags had another opportunity, but in a sign of things to come, WIllard had two bids denied by Hill.
Late in the first OT, Massabesic gave the ball back on a turnover, but Willard shot wide and as time wound down, senior Sadie Lyons had a shot blocked.
While the first overtime produced no offense, the second session was full of it.
Whitten won the draw and the Mustangs jumped to a 7-6 lead when Dimastrantonio set up Whitten for a goal 28 seconds in.
Logan then won the ensuing draw, but a turnover gave Massabesic another chance and with 1:39 remaining, Dimastrantonio set up another goal, this one by Pike, and the Mustangs went up, 8-6, and appeared to be in control.
But Cheverus still had time to work with and no one battles to the final horn like these Stags.
Out of a timeout, Logan won the draw, the ball came to Willard and she raced in to beat Hill, cutting the deficit to 8-7 with 1:04 still to go.
Whitten won the ensuing draw, but Slattery forced another turnover and the Stags had a chance to make lightning strike twice.
Did it ever.
Willard ran the ball into the offensive zone, found a lane and raced in on Hill, but once again Hill came up big.
Problem was, no one saw Logan waiting on the weak side for the rebound and Logan's final goal of her transcendent high school career was one of her most memorable, as she snared the ball out of midair and in one motion threw it into the net before exulting.
Cheverus 8 Massabesic 8.
11.3 seconds left.
Again, the Mustangs almost won before the horn, but a bid from Pike went just wide.
She would get a chance to redeem herself, but that was some 25 real time minutes away.
The third overtime was dripping with tension, as the next goal would end the season for one team and lead to a joyous celebration for the other.
Logan won the draw to Caiazzo and the Stags had a chance to quickly end matters and sure enough, they had a great chance when Willard was given a free position from the best possible angle, right up top.
Willard raced in and threw a shot she hoped would deliver a repeat crown, but Hill stood tall and made the save of her young life.
"I was so scared," Hill said. "I just told myself I had to do it for the team. (When I saved it,) I was so excited I wanted to cry."
"(Megan) jumped at that ball like her life depended on it and came up with the save," Bowen said. "A lot of goalies would have given that one up."
Lyons got the ground ball to keep possession, but was called for a charge.
Massabesic set up on offense, but couldn't get a shot before committing a turnover of its own.
Willard got another free position with 35.2 seconds to play in the third overtime, but this time it was from a much tougher angle and she couldn't unleash a shot. As time wound down, Logan managed a shot, but this time, it didn't find the net and Hill's save necessitated overtime number four.
Whitten won the draw to start it and Whitten had a great chance to end it 58 seconds in, but her shot, which got past Correia, rang off the post and bounced back on to the field of play.
And the teams played on.
The Mustangs kept possession and got another great chance with 38.1 seconds showing, but a shot by Dimastrantonio was saved by Correia.
With 9.7 seconds left, Foglio shot high and that took care of the fourth overtime.
By the start of the fifth overtime, everyone at Fitzpatrick Stadium was exhausted, even the boys' teams from Brunswick and South Portland, who were scheduled to start their game at that very moment, but were as riveted by the action as everyone else.
The fifth OT finally brought resolution, but it's hard to say there was a winner and a loser because everyone was a winner on this day.
Whitten won the draw to Foglio and Massabesic went on the attack.
With 2:31 left, Whitten fired a shot, but Correia made the save.
The Stags couldn't keep possession, but got the ball right back when Biegel forced a turnover.
But Cheverus never did manage another shot, as it committed a turnover and after senior Jolena Lampron came up with the ball, the Mustangs finally did something with it.
The winner came off a set play, as with 1:22 to go, Guillemette was awareded a free position.
She never took a shot, instead delivering the assist of her career.
When the whistle blew, Guillemette passed to Pike in front and Pike didn't hesitate, seizing her destiny with a quick shot on which Correia had no chance.
"We practice looking at our surroundings a lot in practice," said Pike. "Jackie looked at me. I caught it and put it in. It's an unbelievable feeling."
At 5:30 p.m., after an amazing 135 minutes of brilliant lacrosse, Massabesic was the state champion.
Mustangs 9 Stags 8.
In an unimaginable 63 minutes and 38 seconds of game action.
"We never quit," Pike said. "Just like last year. We knew we couldn't give up. We worked so hard for it. Last year definitely drove us. Being here, you want to come back. That pushed us all season. It's been exhausting, but so exciting. It's an amazing feeling to get here and to win it."
"It was very nervewracking," Hill said. "We wanted this bad and we did what we do. It means a lot to us."
"We've been in some pretty tight games this season and through that process, we've learned that it's not over until it's over," added Bowen. "You battle and roll with the punches and hope you get one in. After losing a game of this magnitude last year, you're broken-hearted as a coach. We went to work. The girls did everything we asked. They never quit and it worked out well. The schedule we had this season prepared us for what we saw today."
Massabesic got two goals apiece from Dimastrantonio, Pike, Sylvain and Whitten and one from Guillemette. Dimastrantonio had two assists, while Arral, Guillemette and Pike each added one.
Whitten won 12 of 23 draws and had a team-high nine ground balls. Hill made eight saves.
Massabesic turned the ball over 23 times, but when you consider how long the game lasted, it's excusable.
Now that the Mustangs have gotten back to the pinnacle, don't be surprised if they stay awhile. While Massabesic does lose some talent to graduation, it brings back many very good players with more on the horizon.
"We'll enjoy this," Bowen said. "We're going to graduate six seniors. We have a good freshman class coming in. We'll see what we've got, we'll make some chemistry work and hopefully we'll build upon that."
While Cheverus was understandably disconsolate after the loss, it did quickly put it perspective.
"I feel sad, but I think about how far we've come in four years," Logan said. "Freshman year we won three games. Last year we won and this year we got to states again. We focused a lot this week on one more. One more ground ball, one more draw, one more goal. That's what we tried to do. It was a great experience to have and not many people can say that they're the last two teams in the country playing lacrosse."
"It was a really good game," Pelkey said. "It all came down to possession and protecting the ball. I told the girls that we might have lost the game, but they didn't win it easily. We came out here and proved ourselves. Our teams are very close. We're neck-and-neck and we've been like that all season and the past few years. They just happened to win this one."
Logan and Willard both had four goals in their swan song. Those two, along with Caiazzo, will live in program lore.
"Alex did what she did today being injured, but she found a way to pull through," Pelkey said. "I'm very sad to see the seniors go."
Logan, Walsh and Willard all had one assist. Caiazzo had a game-high 13 ground balls (Cheverus had a 51-37 advantage for the game), while Lyons came up with 10. Correia made nine saves.
The Stags outshot the Mustangs, 22-19, but shots on frame were dead even, 17-17.
Cheverus did commit 25 turnovers.
The Stags will have a different look in 2015, but will try to get back to this game and finish.
No matter what happens going forward, Cheverus and everyone else who happened to be at Fitzpatrick Stadium on Saturday, June 21, 2014 will never forget the Class A Final that refused to end.
"Just to be here again was such a blessing," Pelkey said. "We put on a good show."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cheverus stories
Eastern A semifinal
Cheverus 14 Windham 8
Previous Massabesic stories
Previous state games
Massabesic 9 Brunswick 7