ROCKY RIVER – A desperation shot that appeared non-threatening proved to be anything but at the end of a Division II Regional qualifying boys lacrosse match Monday night.
With Rocky River and visiting Toledo Ottawa Hills tied at 12, senior attacker Joe Boesel gained possession of the ball with 10 seconds left in regulation and turned on the jets, sprinting across midfield and into Pirates territory.
From about 25 yards away, Boesel had virtually run out of time and was forced to launch a desperation shot toward the Pirates’ net to his left—the type of shot that wouldn’t normally be considered troublesome on the way to an overtime period.
Boesel’s shot proved to be an accurate one, however, and though Pirates senior goalie Jack Rossi was able to slow the ball down in front of the net, it trickled out of his grasp and just over the goal line as the final horn sounded, giving the third-seeded Green Bears (12-5) an improbable 13-12 victory over the second-seeded Pirates (11-5).
“We haven’t seen too many of those (last-second goals),” Green Bears coach Tim Best said. “That was a senior leader just putting it on net and seeing what happens.”
Rocky River, which led nearly the entire game, fell behind 12-11 with less than two minutes remaining but was able to tie the game at 12 thanks to a Hayden Weaver goal with 1:23 left. The Green Bears’ stunning response ended the Pirates’ season prematurely.
Last year, the Green Bears upset the top-seeded Pirates 8-5 in the Region 5 final to advance to State. This time, they moved on to a Regional quarterfinal where they will host No. 6 Bay Thursday night at a time to be determined.
“It’s a team game, and I feel terrible for our seniors,” Pirates coach Bobby Perez said. “They go out in game like that on their home field and it sucks, but we’re back to the drawing board next season.”
In a game befitting two strong teams, the Green Bears weathered Pirates scoring runs and kept close enough to force a tie. Rocky River led 4-1 after the first quarter and, after Ottawa Hills pulled to within 5-4, Will Bennett and Andrew Snow scored within the last three minutes to finish the half up 7-4.
And in the second half, the teams went back-and-forth. Ottawa Hills scored twice early in the third on Matt Mintun and Nick Durfee goals to make it 7-6 and tied the game on James Silk’s strike with 1:33 left, but the Pirates responded with two huge scores from Weaver and Will St. Pierre in the final minute. Snow scored just 15 seconds into the fourth quarter to put the Pirates back up three, 10-7, but the Green Bears finished the game with a 6-2 scoring advantage.
Down 11-8, Durfee scored again, and Mintun notched two goals with 5:10 and 3:17 left to tie the game at 11. After Durfee briefly gave the Green Bears a lead with 1:53 left, he was called for an offsides, leading to the Pirates having a man-advantage for 30 seconds.
Weaver then tied the game at 12 off a Logan Fortune assist.
“We’re a senior-laden team,” Best said. “We’re fighting here to keep our season alive and they’ve been playing together a long time, so it’s nice to be able to play one more game…In our region, it’s Rocky River. They’re a great program and we know that when we play them, it’s going to be a battle.”
The Pirates held advantages in faceoffs and ground balls, and also outshot the Green Bears 40-31, including 23-14 in the second half, but missed on numerous opportunities. Green Bears senior goalie Ethan Krupp stood on his head, making all nine of his saves in the final two quarters, and the entire team seemed to feed off the effort.
Rossi finished with seven saves, and was one of seven seniors to play their last high school game. The Pirates featured 25 underclassmen on this year’s varsity roster.
“There’s a lot of good kids coming back to this program, and we’ll be back,” Perez said. “We’re not going to make a habit of first-round exits. But that’s a good, quality-coached team, so hats off to (Ottawa Hills). They played hard and won the second half good.”
Mintun led all scorers with five goals, while Durfee scored four to help lead the Green Bears. Weaver and Snow each recorded a hat trick for the Pirates, while Bennett and St. Pierre each scored twice. Fortune logged a team-high two assists.
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