South Portland boys rally to edge Brunswick in OT classic

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South Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team mobs senior Charlie Cronin after Cronin’s overtime game-winner in Saturday’s scintillating 10-9 victory over defending Class A champion Brunswick.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

South Portland 10 Brunswick 9 (OT)

B- 3 3 2 1 0- 9
SP- 2 1 3 3 1- 10

First quarter
11:02 B Girardin (unassisted)
10:05 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
8:52 B Glover (unassisted)
3:30 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
2:13 B Gramins (Glover)

Second quarter
10:32 B Glover (unassisted)
9:07 B Lyne (McDiarmid)
3:39 B McDiarmid (Glover)
3:14 SP Schifano (Mehlhorn)

Third quarter
10:24 SP Tierney (unassisted)
9:17 B Gramins (unassisted)
3:54 B Glover (unassisted)
2:22 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
1:23 SP Tierney (unassisted)

Fourth quarter
7:56 SP Schifano (Fiorini)
7:28 SP Cronin (unassisted)
6:52 SP Doucette (unassisted)
6:31 B Eno (unassisted)

Overtime
3:47 SP Cronin (Campbell)

Goals:
B- Glover 3, Gramins 2, Eno, Girardin, Lyne, McDiarmid 1
SP- Cronin, Fiorini, Schifano, Tierney 2, Doucette, Mehlhorn 1

Assists:
B- Glover 2, McDiarmid 1
SP- Campbell, Fiorni, Mehlhorn 1

Faceoffs (South Portland, 16-7)
B- Curtis 3 of 15, Burtis 4 of 8
SP- Doan 16 of 23

Ground balls:
B- 32
SP- 48

Turnovers:
B- 20
SP- 20

Shots:
B- 28
SP- 42

Shots on cage
B- 21
SP- 27

Saves:
B (Pendergast) 17
SP (Watson) 12

SOUTH PORTLAND—South Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team has quickly come of age and in a wild and wacky 2018 season, where Class A South appears to be open for the taking, the Red Riots just might be earmarked for something special.

Saturday afternoon at Martin Memorial Field, South Portland welcomed defending Class A state champion Brunswick, arguably the state’s elite team at this early juncture, and for most of three quarters, the Dragons had the Red Riots on the defensive and appeared poised for yet another victory.

But then, South Portland dug deep, demonstrated its heart and rallied for one of the biggest regular season wins of recent vintage.

The first period saw Brunswick junior Nate Girardin and South Portland junior Cooper Mehlhorn trade goals, then Dragons junior Aiden Glover and Red Riots junior David Fiorini do the same before senior Max Gramins scored late to give the visitors a 3-2 lead.

Brunswick then rattled off goals from Glover, junior Nolan Lyne and sophomore Jack McDiarmid to open it up. Senior Aidan Schifano got a goal back for South Portland, but the Red Riots were down, 6-3, at halftime.

After senior Jack Tierney scored early in the second half for the hosts, Gramins and Glover answered for the Dragons and they appeared in command, but South Portland saved its best for last.

Before the third quarter came to a close, Fiorini and Tierney scored to give the Red Riots life.

Then, in a 23-second span, South Portland drew even, as first Schifano (off a great feed from Fiorini), then senior Charlie Cronin scored to make it 8-8.

With 6:52 remaining, Red Riots junior Logan Doucette gave the hosts their first lead, but 21 seconds later, senior Andrew Eno answered for Brunswick and after neither team could score the remainder of regulation, the game went to overtime, tied 9-9.

South Portland won the faceoff to start the “sudden victory” extra session and the ball came to Cronin, the soccer standout who is playing high school lacrosse for the first time, and 13 seconds in, Cronin delivered the memorable punctuation mark, finishing to give the Red Riots a palpitating 10-9 victory.

South Portland improved to 3-0 and handed Brunswick its first loss in four outings in the process.

“My team grew up today,” said Red Riots coach Tom Fiorini. “It was a nice comeback victory. The kids showed a lot of heart. This might not be the most talented team I’ve had, but it might be the hardest working.” 

Rarity

Brunswick and South Portland have combined to win three of the past four Class A state titles, but the schools hadn’t met before in the regular season.

The Red Riots downed the Dragons, 10-8, to win their first championship in 2014. The following year, Brunswick returned the favor, 11-9.

Last spring, the Dragons returned to the Class A pinnacle, edging Scarborough in an overtime game for the ages, 18-17.

Brunswick moved down to Class B this spring, but remain dominant, opening with decisive wins over host Cony (19-1), visiting Gardiner (20-8) and visiting Scarborough in a state game rematch (16-8).

South Portland, which was ousted by Thornton Academy in last year’s semifinals, believe that they could be the best team in Class A South this spring. The Red Riots started with victories at Deering (14-10) and Cheverus (14-12).

Saturday, South Portland played from behind much of the game, but did it ever finish strong, as it handed the Dragons their first regular season loss since May 27, 2016.

Brunswick struck first, 58 seconds in, when Girardin beat Red Riots junior goalie Quinn Watson for an unassisted goal.

The Red Riots answered right back with 10:05 on the first quarter clock, when Mehlhorn fired a shot past Dragons junior goalie Connor Pendergast for an unassisted tally.

Brunswick went back on top on a Glover unassisted goal with 8:52 to go.

Pendergast preserved the lead by denying Mehlhorn, then, in a once-in-a-blue-moon sight, both goalies took shots on goal.

When Pendergast couldn’t clear the ball, he ran up the center of the field before firing a shot that Watson saved.

Watson then noticed that Pendergast had left the goal empty, but his long heave fell short of the mark.

With 3:30 to play in the period, David Fiorini tied the score with an unassisted goal, but with 2:13 on the clock, Glover set up Gramins to make it 3-2 Dragons after one period.

Pendergast made five big saves in the frame.

Brunswick opened it up a bit in the second quarter.

After a South Portland turnover, Glover raced in and stumbled, but still managed to fire a shot past Watson to make it 4-2 with 10:32 to play in the first half.

With 9:07 left, Lyne finished a feed from McDiarmid.

Then, after Pendergast robbed Doucette, the Dragons made it 6-2 when Glover fed McDiarmid for a goal with 3:39 left in the half.

The Red Riots answered 25 seconds later, when Mehlhorn set up Schifano for a shot that Pendergast couldn’t save, snapping a 12-minute, 16-second drought, but Brunswick still managed to take a 6-3 lead to the break.

In the first 24 minutes, South Portland had a big edge in possession, thanks to junior Josh Doan winning 10 of 11 faceoffs, and had a 20-16 edge in shots, but nine Pendergast saves helped the Dragons hold the lead.

Brunswick continued to frustrate the Red Riots in the third quarter before the hosts finally showed some signs of life.

Early in the second half, after Watson came up big, robbing Glover and senior Henry Doherty in succession, Tierney scored unassisted with 10:24 remaining in the third to pull South Portland within 6-4.

Back came the Dragons, as with 9:17 to go, Gramins scored unassisted and after Tierney hit the post, Glover scored unassisted with 3:54 on the clock to make it 8-4 Brunswick.

But just when the Red Riots appeared in trouble, they dug deep and rallied.

With 2:22 remaining in the third, Fiorini started the comeback with an unassisted goal.

Fifty-nine seconds later, in transition, Tierney scored unassisted to cut the deficit to 8-6.

“Jack has been a big spark all year,” Tom Fiorini said. “He’s matured and he’s playing with focus.”

After Watson robbed Doherty as time expired in the quarter, South Portland went to the fourth down just two goals.

The Red Riots would complete their comeback in the final stanza.

With 7:56 to play, Fiorini drew the defense, then somehow threaded a pass to a cutting Schifano on the doorstep, who beat Pendergast to make it 8-7.

Then, 28 seconds later, Cronin scored his second varsity goal to pull South Portland even.

“I’m enjoying lacrosse a ton,” said Cronin, who plans to play soccer at Bates College next year. “I wish I did it all four years. All my friends were playing lacrosse and it’s a great group and I wanted to do it for fun and I love it.”

“Charlie is a special kid,” Tom Fiorini said. “He played in middle school and gave it up to focus on soccer. It’s nice to have him back. He showed up a little rusty, but he’s such a great athlete and he’s such a coachable kid.” 

With 6:52 remaining, the Red Riots went on top for the first time, as after a turnover, Doucette ran in untouched and finished for a 9-8 advantage.

The lead lasted all of 21 seconds, as Eno, on Brunswick’s first shot of the quarter, beat Watson to tie the game for the fourth time.

Down the stretch, Pendergast denied David Fiorini and Tierney, Watson robbed Glover and Doherty hit the post.

After the teams traded turnovers in the final minute, the game had to go to an extra session to achieve resolution.

In Maine high school lacrosse, teams play four-minute, “sudden victory” overtimes to determine a winner and in this case, it took all of 13 seconds.

Doan earned his final faceoff win, senior Tyler Campbell scooped up the ground ball and fed Cronin, who took a step toward the goal, then beat Pendergast with a bounce shot to win it, 10-9, setting off a wild celebration.

“Tyler got me the ball and I was going to pass to Aidan, but I saw him go high and I shot,” Cronin said. “Our first two games, we had such huge leads. Being in a different position today woke us up. We went out and got this result. We started to come back and we felt the momentum. When it got going, there was no stopping us. I was expecting the game would end before overtime, but I knew we wouldn’t lose our firepower and we went out and gave our all. This is a great win. It’s big for all of us.”

“We talked at halftime about figuring out what kind of team we are,” Tom Fiorini said. “We talked about being more patient on offense to give our defense more time to rest. In the second half, we were more patient, we moved the ball and got their defense and goalie moving a little bit and that made a difference putting the ball in the cage.

“I was confident we’d get the ball (in overtime). Our goal was to get the offense to settle and not take the first shot that came, but sometimes, you just let the kids play. I know Brunswick will win games, so we’ll get some Heal Points off this.”

Cronin’s game-winner made him one of four South Portland players to score twice, as he joined David Fiorini, Schifano and Tierney. Doucette and Mehlhorn had one goal apiece.

Campbell, Fiorini and Mehlhorn all had one assist.

Watson stopped 12 shots.

Doan won 16 of 23 faceoffs.

“Josh has worked hard in the offseason to become the faceoff guy,” Tom Fiorini said. “I’m very proud of him.”

The Red Riots had a 48-32 edge in ground balls, as Campbell collected seven and Doan had six, and enjoyed a 42-28 shots advantage (27-21 on cage).

South Portland overcame 20 turnovers.

Brunswick got three goals from Glover, two from Gramins and one apiece from Eno, Girardin, Lyne and McDiarmid.

Glover had two assists, while McDiarmid added one.

Pendergast made 17 saves.

Sophomore Chandler Coombs had a team-high seven ground balls.

The Dragons also had 20 turnovers.

“You don’t win all the time in life or in sports,” said Brunswick coach Don Glover. “We’ll analyze it and move on. We were up 8-4 but it could have been much closer. Connor played exceptional in goal and our defensemen played well. I kept telling the guys to possess and have composure. We played a little too haphazard today. We’ve had a high percentage of wins in the faceoff X, but this year, it’s a work in progress. We’re figuring out the right chemistry. (South Portland) did a phenomenal job.”

More showdowns

Brunswick hopes to bounce back when it hosts Lewiston in a makeup game Monday and goes to Edward Little Thursday.

“We’ll walk away from this and process what we need to do,” Don Glover said. “We want to play our best lacrosse in June. The next time we hit the practice field, we’ll have things we need to focus on. Over time, we’ll get better.”

The road gets no easier for South Portland. Wednesday, the Red Riots host Scarborough. Friday, they go to Yarmouth.

“This puts a target on our backs, but I think we can handle it,” Cronin said.

“We were a little bit of an underdog, but we’re not that anymore,” Tom Fiorini said. “I’m not sure I like that. We have a tough schedule. Every game is a big game. We can’t talk about anything but our next game. We don’t have an easy game.”

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

South Portland junior goalie Quinn Watson makes one of his 12 saves.

South Portland junior Josh Doan collects a ground ball after one of his 16 faceoff victories.

Brunswick junior Aiden Glover gets a step on South Portland senior Caleb Rowland.

Brunswick senior Henry Doherty shoots as South Portland senior Aidan Schifano defends.

Brunswick junior Nolan Lyne fights South Portland senior Colby Conway for the ball.

Brunswick senior Max Gramins shoots on South Portland junior goalie Quinn Watson as junior defender Ryan Loring looks on.

South Portland junior David Fiorini is defended by Brunswick freshman Tyler Douglas.

South Portland senior Charlie Cronin fires the game winning shot past Brunswick junior goalie Connor Pendergast in overtime.

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