On the regular season’s final day, No. 1 Boys’ Latin lacrosse scored the first five goals at rival St. Paul’s and seemed poised to comfortably claim the top seed in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs.
Instead, the defending league champion Lakers had to find a different way to win, one that might serve a greater purpose in the coming days.
Stuck on nine goals while the No. 5 Crusaders surged ahead in front of their big home crowd, Boys’ Latin rallied with three unanswered goals before turning to a reliable source in overtime. With 2:03 left in the extra session, senior star Dom Pietramala circled around the cage to find space on the right side before ripping a shot that gave the Lakers a 13-12 victory.
In the exceptionally balanced MIAA, Boys’ Latin (13-3) proved steadiest, finishing with an 8-2 mark to claim first place and an opening-round bye in the playoffs. St. Paul’s, which needed a win for the sixth and final playoff spot, finishes 11-6 overall and 5-5 in conference play.
The Lakers couldn’t have asked for a better gut-check as they look to bring home a second straight league title.
“This is huge for us,” said Pietramala, who finished with three goals and two assists. “It shows us that everybody is beatable, and that includes us, and it shows us that we need to keep working hard. It’s outcomes like this that keeps the drive going, keeps us wanting to keep fighting.”
So after watching a 5-0 lead turn into a 12-9 deficit with 7:27 left in the fourth quarter, how did the Lakers respond in the game’s biggest moments?
With a measure of calm.
Pietramala ended the Lakers’ 14-plus minute scoring drought — St. Paul’s went from being down 9-7 to being up 12-9 — to start the comeback. He then dished out two assists, first finding Nicky Brown with 5:06 to play and then Brayden Garland with 4:11 to go to tie the game at 12.
Both teams had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but neither side was able to find the net with Boys’ Latin goalie Cardin Stoller (10 saves) making a key stop.
In overtime, St. Paul’s faceoff specialist Daniel Davis — solid throughout and dominant in the third quarter — gave the Crusaders the first chance to claim the win, but Luke Bair’s shot with 3:11 left went wide.
After Boys’ Latin coach Brian Farrell called timeout, the order was simple: “Give the ball to [Pietramala].”
“In the beginning, [Pietramala] didn’t shoot particularly well, but that’s him. He’s like, ‘Hey, I’m going to keep shooting.’ That’s what great players do,” Farrell said. “They want the ball at the end of the day, and that’s what we saw out there today.”
For the Lakers, Spencer Ford (three goals, one assist), Brown (two goals, two assists), Garland (two goals) and Hopper Zappitello (three assists) all did their share to help bring home the win, with Thomas Moxley winning some key faceoffs.
“That’s an amazing, talented [St. Paul’s] team, really well-coached and it’s a high school lacrosse game at the end of the day,” Farrell said. “That was the first time we’ve been down a significant amount and didn’t panic. I thought we really kept cool ... we didn’t really try to force anything and we made plays when we needed to make plays.”
Filled with emotion on their senior day, St. Paul’s came out sluggish but showed character against the league’s first-place team. The Crusaders dominated the third quarter with faceoff specialist Daniel Davis regularly getting them the ball and the attack proving efficient to turn an 8-6 deficit into a 12-9 lead going into the fourth. Senior captain Jake Bair finished with three goals while Brody Atkinson and freshman Jack Iannantuono each contributed two goals and one assist.
The Crusaders gave themselves a chance at a playoff bid with a win at Gilman on Friday and then pushed the defending champions to the overtime limit Tuesday.
“I’m so proud of all of them,” first-year coach Steve Settembrino said. “They played with so much heart, played together — it’s like you either win it all or you don’t, and one team does. But I’m really proud of the group of guys that we have and really going to miss this group of seniors.”
Boys’ Latin advances to the semifinal round set for Tuesday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. The quarterfinal round — featuring teams seeded Nos. 3 to 6 — will open Friday with a pairing yet to be determined.
Goals: BL -- Garland 2, D. Pietramala 3, Ford 3, Brown 2, Walsh, Pacheco, Owings;
SP -- J. Bair 3, Iannantuono 2, Brown 2, Tracey, Smyth, Atkinson 2
Assists: BL -- D. Pietramala 2, Zappitello 3, Ford, Brown 2;
SP -- Iannantuono, Clark 2, Atkinson
Saves: BL -- Stoller 10;
SP -- Watkinson 6
Half: BL, 8-6