NORWALK >> It’s not every day in the sport of lacrosse that you encounter a defensive clinic by both teams. But on Wednesday, the Amity boys lacrosse team and Staples did exactly that in the CIAC Class L semifinals.
Both sides intercepted passes, disrupted fast-break transitions, on-field defenders blocked shots and both goalies made impressive saves.
The difference in the game was fourth-quarter ball possession by the Wreckers, who won most of the faceoffs and ground balls, allowing them more scoring opportunities.
Pat Lesch had two goals and goalie Cole Gendeis had 11 saves to lead No. 9 Staples to an 8-6 come-from-behind win over No. 5 Amity at McMahon High. The Wreckers advance to the Class L championship game against Greenwich, a 7-5 winner over Ridgefield, on Saturday at McMahon at 1:30 p.m.
Amity took a 6-3 lead in the second half and Staples responded with five unanswered goals, including an Amity own goal, to take control of the game.
“Both sides played great defense but they had 75 percent of the possession in the fourth quarter and that was the big factor in this game,” Amity coach Brandon Pepe said. “It was an even game overall but they had more opportunities in the fourth quarter.
“My heart really goes out to our seniors who worked their butts off. I feel bad but I’m also proud of our entire group. This was a special season and once the sting of this loss fades they’ll realize how much they’ve done for this program.”
Staples improves to 15-5 and makes its third appearance in a CIAC championship game. The Wreckers lost 14-8 to Fairfield Prep in the Class L final last season and lost 11-8 to South Windsor in the 1999 Division II final.
“Amity is a good team and played a great game,” Staples coach Paul McNulty said. “We knew this would be a tough, defensive game. I think the turning point was when we fell behind 6-3.
“At that point our seniors gathered our players and motivated them to keep working hard and fight back. We finally started settling down a bit. In the fourth quarter we owned the ball possession and our attack stepped up.”
In the first quarter, the Wreckers scored first when Pete Blevins had the ball near the left post, spun around to the front of the net and scored on a bounce shot with 8:37 left in the first quarter.
Jake Milner responded for the Spartans. He took a low shot from about eight yards out as the ball rolled into the lower left corner of the net to tie the game at 1 with 5:15 to go.
The Wreckers regained the lead as Lesch scored 25 seconds later for a 2-1 lead and Teddy Coogan made it 3-1 with 1:52 left in the first quarter.
The Spartans responded with five unanswered goals to build up a 6-3 lead. Tyler Burns started the run with a goal to cut the lead to 3-2 with 8:04 left in the second quarter. Amity scored the first four goals of the third period capped by a Joe Choiniere goal with 2:11 to go for the 6-3 lead.
Jon Pacilio responded with a goal for Staples with 1:10 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 6-4. In the fourth quarter, Michael Reale made it 6-5 with 8:13 to go and when an own goal tied the game at 6 for Staples, it sent the Wreckers’ fans to their feet.
Lesch blasted a shot from about 10 yards out that inadvertently bounced off Amity goalie Evan Campbell’s stick into the net for the 6-6 tie with 7:20 left. Lesch gave Staples a 7-6 lead with 4:28 to go and Will Johnson added an insurance goal with 1:13 left for the 8-6 final.
“This was a great team win for us,” Lesch said. “Amity’s defense was amazing and their goalie played great. That own goal was just one of those things that happens. Tying the game was important but it was really big when we went ahead 7-6. That really turned the tide and gave us some momentum.”
Choiniere had two goals and an assist and Uscilla had two goals for the Spartans (15-5). Campbell ended up with 11 saves.