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Gamber boys lacrosse players Mikey Simons (30) and Andrew Grandinetti (99) play defense during a recent game.
Gamber boys lacrosse players Mikey Simons (30) and Andrew Grandinetti (99) play defense during a recent game. (Courtesy photo)

It will be a long time before coach Rob Heath forgets his Gamber I lacrosse team’s win over Sandy Spring I at Deer Park last Wednesday night.

First, it gave his eighth-grade boys first place in the Maryland Youth Lacrosse Association Junior B Division for the regular season. But what made it unforgettable was the fact that it was a comeback, 6-5 win in overtime.

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The 22-year-old Westminster graduate may be a lot older and further along in his coaching career before he sees another game quite like it. There was a lot at stake in this final regular-season game. Sandy Spring and Gamber were tied for first place with 6-2 records in the Junior B Division.

Freedom I was also 6-2, but it had lost two games to the weather and these wouldn’t be made up.

The winner of Wednesday night’s showdown would be 7-2 and get the No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs. Heath explained the importance of this to his kids before the game.

“I told them they were playing for the No. 1 seed and home field advantage,” Heath said. “I told them the championship road could run through Deer Park.”

Because it won, Gamber will play all of its playoff games at Deer Park except for the championship game if it makes it that far. The team is coming off its best season.

And, it is in the playoffs for the first time in its three-year history.

Heath credited his squad’s improvement over last year’s 6-4 record to the fact that the players were older and more experienced. In addition, there was more talent.He added five new guys this season, giving him 21. There are 10 players on the field at a time.

“They were all talented, and I’m always looking to add talented players,” Heath said.

He said the worst problem he faced this year was getting everyone enough playing time. However, the new and existing players quickly blended and learned to work well together.

They played as a team at all times.

“They all knew each other. They passed the ball well to each other, and there were no ball hogs,” Heath said.

Defense was a key component in his Gamber squad’s success. It yielded only 48 goals, second lowest in the league. And, a good defense makes for a strong offense.

“We had a strong defense that always got the ball back, and that usually kept our offense in the opponents’ end of the field,” the coach said.

That offense scored 77 goals, also best in the league. But despite the team’s great statistics, Gamber had some bumps in its road during the season.

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It opened with four straight wins, the last one being over Freedom 8-4. However, Freedom must have learned something about Gamber in that game. It came back to upend Gamber twice, 6-5 and 10-8 during the first week of May, dropping its record to 4-2.

“Freedom is a physical team. They are very athletic and move the ball well. Any team that does that will be tough opponent,” the Gamber coach said.

However, his boys recovered to beat Westminster I twice in their final two games and boost their record to 6-2 coming into Wednesday night. Gamber had beaten Sandy Spring 12-8 in mid-April. But this rematch would wind up being a whole lot closer.

Both teams scored twice in the opening period, but the Montgomery County-based squad outscored the home team 2-1 in the second quarter to lead 4-3 at halftime.

Gamber’s coach decided on a few changes.

“I spread the players out and had them play a possession game. I told them not to make passes or take shots that weren't there. We got more shots on goal in the second half,” Heath said.

They did get more goals — but only barely. Gamber tied the game at 4-4 with a score about halfway through the third quarter.

But Sandy Spring scored late in regulation to go up 5-4. However, the home team tied it in the final minute of regulation, 5-5. The overtime period was scoreless until the final 10 seconds when Gamber scored the winner.

“It was amazing. That’s the only word that fits,” Heath said.

The team awaits word on this weekend’s first playoff game. Heath says a couple of things are key to his team’s success in those playoffs. Basically, it’s keep playing the way it has.

“The defense has to be the strong point of the team, and the offense has to keep doing what it’s doing. If we play the way we did … we'll have no problem going deep into the playoffs,” Heath said.

And maybe all the way.

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