STRATFORD >> The Branford girls lacrosse team did its best to hold its own in the first half, trailing by two at halftime against defending champion New Canaan in the CIAC Class M semifinals on Tuesday.
But draw control and possession is the name of the game in lacrosse, and the Rams won nearly 80 percent of the second-half draws and dominated possession to pull away and cruise to victory.
Karlie Bucci, Sammy Stewart and Catherine Granito had three goals each and Caroline Dea and Cameron Blair combined for eight saves to lead No. 6 New Canaan to a 15-6 win over No. 2 Branford at Bunnell High.
“Our offense made better decisions and our defense played better in the second half,” New Canaan coach Kristin Woods said. “But what turned the game around for us was Sammy Stewart winning our draw controls and us possessing the ball more.
“We made mistakes and had so many unforced errors in the first half. At halftime I told the girls we had to go back to fundamentals and take care of the little things. And now, we’re going back to the final.”
New Canaan makes its fifth straight appearance in the final with titles 2012, 2013 and 2015. The Rams will play No. 4 Barlow at Law on Saturday at a time to be determined. Barlow defeated No. 1 Hand 10-9 (OT) in the other semifinal.
“In the second half our draw control changed the game,” Granito said. “We won about every draw and that allowed our offense to dominate. It’s really nice to have this opportunity again with another chance to win a title.”
In the first half, the Rams held two-goal leads three times but couldn’t pull away from the Hornets. The Rams took a 2-0 lead and Branford responded with a pair of goals with Carolyn Caminear tying the game at 2 with 12 minutes to go. The Rams took a two-goal lead again with Catherine Granito scored for a 4-2 New Canaan lead.
The teams went on to trade goals to close the half with New Canaan leading 5-3 at halftime.
In the second half, Sophie Spencer scored with 21:35 to go to cut the New Canaan lead to 5-4. From that point on it was a struggle for the Hornets to gain possession.
The Rams went on a 9-1 run capped by a Braeden Dial goal with 5:51 to go for a 14-5 lead.
“No question, their draws in the second half turned the game around,” Branford coach Jackie Ceccolini said. “Our offense and defense matched up with them in the first half. They just dominated the possession in the second half.
“But I’m really proud of my girls. This was Branford’s best season and it’s the first time we advanced as far as the semifinals.”
Sophie Spencer led the Hornets with three goals and Sydnie Smith had six saves.
New Canaan 15, Branford 6
New Canaan 5 10 — 15
Branford 3 3 — 6
Goals: (BR) Sophie Spencer 3; Autumn McHenry 2; Carolyn Caminear 1; (NCA) Sammy Stewart 3; Catherine Granito 3; Karlie Bucci 3; Braeden Dial 2; Brooke Deane 2; Gianna Bruno 2;
Assists: (BR) Autumn McHenry 1; (NCA) Sammy Stewart 1;
Saves: (BR) Sydnie Smith 6; (NCA) Caroline O’Dea 5; Cameron Blair 3.
Shots—NCA: 21; BR: 14;
Team records—Branford 16-4; New Canaan 17-4