Last night was a tough one for the SoundLacrosse crew. We had four D1 playoff games to cover, three of which seemed to be coin-tossers and they were spread out all over Puget Sound. Sehome-Bellingham hosted Emerald Ridge-Puyallup, Auburn Riverside hosted Lake Washington in Enumclaw, and, in the only game to feature teams that have only one word names, Bainbridge hosted Skyline. To top it off, it was a weeknight and we were short-staffed. We could only cover one game, so naturally, we chose the one with the best food, and hopped the ferry to Bainbridge to chow down on the Booster Club’s hamburgers.
You’ve heard it from me before, but it bears repeating; Bainbridge is probably the most dramatic example of a team that has improved over the season. Their roster includes eight freshmen and eight sophomores and now they have a full season of play under their belts. Skyline also has a young team, with 11 juniors, but tonight they too would rely heavily on the play of a freshman.
Bainbridge’s head coach, Jack Visco, is in his 13th Spartan season, with a gazillion State titles under his belt, both at Mercer Island and Bainbridge. Skyline’s Sam Hutson is in his 1st Spartan season, and is itching to make a run deep in the playoffs, if not actually capture his first championship.
Bainbridge jumped out to a relatively quick and surprisingly easy 2-0 lead in the 1st quarter. Ben LaRoche (1g, 1a, 5gb) and Thomas Daniels (1g, 5gb) both net shots from the set offense and Bainbridge looked like they might make an easy night of it. But senior defenseman Spencer Noonan didn’t get where he is by letting his team panic and the LandSpartans settled down and began to control the IslandSpartans. Junior McKay Berndt answers the call for Skyline giving them their first goal. The teams then trade goals and with two seconds left in the 1st quarter, middie Jimmy Bucy scores Skyline’s third from the outside, and the quarter ends with the score 3-3.
All night long, Skyline dominated the face-off battle. In the first quarter, Bainbridge was able to cause turnovers and neutralize the face-off advantage. But in the second, Skyline totally dominated the time of possession. However solid defense by Vicso’s IslandSpartans, and some stellar cage-play by senior Reynolds Yarbrough (10saves, 52%) held Skyline frustratingly scoreless. You kept feeling like at any moment the dam would break and Skyline would go on a run, but Yarbrough said “No.” Ultimately, it was Bainbridge that broke the 3-3 tie, on a change-up from Jack Frickleton (3g, 2a,2gb) that dribbled into the cage. Bainbridge lead 4-3 with six minutes left in the half. A couple of minutes later, however, Skyline freshman Connor Hoke (3g, 2gb) introduced himself to the Bainbridge defense, taking advantage of a late slide, and showing why he has debuted as the team’s second leading scorer.
With time winding down in the half, the first of many unusual events for the referees occurred. Skyline ripped a shot to the upper left corner which appeared to miss just high. However, a whistle from the refs a conference at the goal, and a quick inspection that the ball had actually sailed through the net and hole needed to be patched. A zip tie and a Kyle Kuberski (8 saves 44%) save later, the half ended with Skyline leading Bainbridge 5-4.
The first half revealed a couple of things. First, Skyline’s Matt Riley (1g, gb) and Jimmy Bucy (1g, 7gb) were dominating at the faceoff X, yet it wasn’t leading to many goals. They had a 9-2 faceoff advantage but only a 5-4 lead. Secondly, it was becoming very obvious that a few Skyline parents needed to calm down. The yelling, jawing and chirping of the referees was heard throughout the stadium, on both sides of the fields, and was completely inappropriate, regardless of how the game was being called.
The third quarter proceeded much as the second one. Skyline dominated time of possession and middie Riley put them ahead by two. But Bainbridge’s Jackson Larkin, after ringing pipe a couple of times in the first half, quick sticked one in to keep the lead at one.
A few minutes later, the referees had to stop play, walk off the field to the stands and speak with the fans. Either voluntarily or otherwise, one of the Skyline parents left the stadium. A very sad moment, that distracted from what was a very good lacrosse game for the players. Most everyone in attendance hoped that the problem had been solved.
After play resumed, Skyline opened up their biggest lead. Michael Cowin put them up by two, and then as the quarter ended, Hoke scored his 2nd. A three goal lead, 8-5 after three quarters, and Bainbridge looked gassed. Skyline’s got some big horses on the roster and it seemed like they were starting to wear the home team down.
Freshman phenom Hoke opened the 4th quarter scoring by completing his hat trick. Skyline held this four goal lead, 9-5, as the clock wound down towards the seven minute mark, and the light felt like it was fading on Bainbridge. Noonan and his boys started to exert dominance through their size and strength. What few shots made it through were handled routinely by Kuberski.
With seven minutes left in the game, Frickleton scored his second for Bainbridge to make it 9-6, but it really didn’t feel like the momentum shifted. The mountain was too tall, and Bainbridge had shown no penchant for climbing it. A little later, Michael Rose (2g, gb) greased a rope to pull his team to within two with four minutes left, but no one seemed to notice the confidence that Coach Visco had building within the Bainbridge team. Skyline still dominated the faceoffs but seemed to sleepwalk through their offensive sets, and a quick fastbreak by Max Wickline (1g,2a) pulled Bainbridge to within one with three minutes to go. Now, everyone started to notice, we had a game again.
Coach Hutson rallied his boys and they settled down to run time off the clock. Deliberate passing and thoughtful decisions ruled the next two minutes of play. But unfortunately, not the last minute. After an illegal body check penalty on Bainbridge, Skyline found itself with a man advantage, the lead, and the ball with 50 seconds left in the game. Instead of running out the clock, the LandSpartans decided this would be a good time to shoot. Yarbrough made not his hardest, but certainly his most timely, save of the game, cleared the ball quickly with precision and Thomas Daniels scores the tying goal with 7.8 seconds left on the clock. IslandSpartans had completed the comeback and had stolen all the momentum. The score was 9-9 and the game was going to overtime. For the first time in the game, the Skyline stands were silent.
Also for the first time in the game, Bainbridge won a critical faceoff. As they brought the ball down the alley however, strong defensive pressure forced the pass to sail high and over the endline. Turnover to the LandSpartans, who had to bring the ball up the length of the field. Bainbridge rode them hard, and the ball was on the ground a lot, as both teams tried to control it. Around midfield, Spencer Noonan put the team on his back, scooped the ground ball, and led a fast break down the middle of the field. In full stride he found a teammate on the crease who dunked it for the game winner. Skyline mobbed the goalie, helmets and gloves were tossed and backflips were done in celebration.
Unfortunately, no one watched the consultation of the referees. After talking it over to get the call correct, the referees wiped off the game winning goal. Skyline was ruled to have been offsides on the play. No goal, and the ball is turned over to Bainbridge.
Clearly emotionally spent, both teams struggled to succeed in the ensuing minutes of play. Resurrected, you’d have thought Bainbridge could have ridden an emotional surge to a gimme goal, but the Skyline defense wasn’t giving anything. After a stop though, Bainbridge’s Michael Rose intercepted an inaccurate clear attempt at midfield and found himself in the middle of a 2 on 3 fastbreak. He hitched up his shorts, busted a move, swam through the double team and buried the goal that sent Bainbridge into the quarterfinals. A 10 to 9 overtime win for the IslandSpartans.
As you can imagine, it was a heartbreaker for the Skyline contingent. A blown four goal lead
and a wiped-off game winner created some intense emotions on the sidelines and in the stands. Unfortunately, things got ugly. Rather than detail the ugliness, we’ll leave you with two thoughts…First, no matter what happens in a high school game, no matter how bad you think the calls were, if your behavior causes the referees to feel threatened enough to call the police for an escort to their cars, you’re doing something wrong. Secondly, we should all look to the example set by Skyline Senior Spencer Noonan. Here’s a young man, who just ended his high school playing career. He had to have been wrung through the wringer emotionally and probably felt he and his teammates were robbed. He also, as a backstory, was an All-American last year, and in my opinion got jobbed out of being one this year, which could have also left him feeling bitter about how his season ended. Additionally, there was plenty of mob-mentality emotion around the field at the end of the game and he could have joined in with that. But instead, 45 minutes after the game and his high school career were over, Noonan was on the sidelines, talking with the refs, his fans and his opponents, with a big smile on his face. He was enjoying the moment, knowing it was soon to be gone forever. He’s a class act and a great example for what’s good about this game. Be more like him.