The Duxbury boys’ lacrosse team turned in its best performance of the year on Saturday afternoon when it beat nationally-ranked Niskayuna (NY), 8-7, on Sam Sweet’s goal with 13 seconds remaining.
What appeared to be a high-scoring affair when both teams scored a trio of goals in a 17-second span early in the first quarter, suddenly turned into a defensive struggle, as neither team was able to get more than a two-goal lead throughout the afternoon under overcast skies in Duxbury.
Goals by Sweet and James Burke wiped out an early 1-0 Niskayuna lead on a Matt Sexton goal, and the Dragons were able to maintain their advantage over the next four minutes until Tanner McIber knotted the game at 2-2 when he found the top corner while stationed to the right of Duxbury goalie Henry Buonagurio.
The tie didn’t last long, as Duxbury’s Will Siefert picked up a loose ball after Chris Williams made a dash up field and beat Niskayuna goalie Evan Quinn for a 3-2 lead.
The Silver Warriors called a timeout with 2:09 left after gaining possession following Siefert’s goal, and they worked the clock down to 45 seconds before Buonagurio made a huge save from 15 yards out to preserve the lead as the quarter ended.
It was evident early on that this game was going down to the wire, as every possession was challenged and getting an open lane to the net was near impossible.
Before the visitors could set their defense to start the second half, the Dragons upped their lead to 4-2 when Reilly Naton took a pass from Williams and beat Quinn just 26 seconds after the faceoff.
Neither team was giving ground easily and every goal was hard-earned, so falling behind by two goals and possibly three was the kiss of death.
The Silver Warriors were able to avoid that trauma by scoring just over three minutes later when Luke Goldstock slipped one by Buonagurio to cut the deficit to one at 4-3.
Duxbury would have a chance to get it back with a man-up situation called with 5:15 left in the half, but they threw the ball away and squandered a desperately needed opportunity.
With 2:31 to go before the break the Dragons regained their two-goal lead when Siefert, who was stationed behind the net, sent a pass out front to Seamus Connelly, who pushed it back past Quinn for a 5-3 halftime lead.
It was hard to imagine the game getting any stingier, but the loss of attack Paul Hellar didn’t help Duxbury’s offensive cause in the third quarter when they went scoreless. The Dragons did manage to kill one man-up situation, but Justin Picardi’s goal early in the quarter kept Niskayuna in striking range at 5-4.
Apparently both teams were also bored with the lack of scoring in the second half and decided to turn it up a notch in the final 12 minutes.
Picardi took advantage of the remaining seconds on Niskayuna’s second man-up situation in the third quarter and notched his second of the game 18 seconds into the fourth quarter.
But that lead lasted only 17 seconds, as defenseman James Burke got the ball downfield quickly and behind the Niskayuna goal, faking a delay and sprinting out in front to beat Quinn for a 6-5 lead with 11:25 left on the clock.
Duxbury’s defense with Max Randle and Matt O’Keefe had been superb most of the afternoon, but 54 seconds later the Silver Warriors found a hole in the Dragons’ armor when Lucas Maloney was all alone in front of Buonagurio and took a pass with no one on him to tie the game at 6-6.
The Dragons knew this would be a huge win on their resume and they didn’t back down, taking just 19 seconds off the clock before Connelly took a pass from Siefert cutting through the slot and fired back against the grain to beat Quinn for a 7-6 lead.
Buonagurio would bail his teammates out once again with a big save on a bouncing shot from 10 yards out, but Duxbury surrendered the ball after holding onto it for a solid two minutes.
Less than 30 second later the ball was at the other end and Maloney scored his second in a row when he pivoted in front of the Duxbury net and had the ball fall out of his basket and over the head of an unsuspecting Buonagurio to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:27 to go.
The visitors would get possession once again with less than four minutes to go, but Naton and Burke combined for a big steal in their defensive end.
Duxbury continued to have offensive problems as time wore down and Niskayuna gained possession one more time, calling a timeout with 2:28 to go.
The Yale-bound Naton came up big once again, as he stepped in front of a Silver Warrior pass with two minutes remaining, allowing Coach Chris Sweet to call a timeout with 1:52 to go.
When play resumed the Dragons worked the ball deliberately, taking time off the clock and working the ball around the perimeter. At the :56 mark Niskayuna was called for a push and Duxbury had the cards stacked in their favor for 30 seconds.
Unable to score on the man-up advantage, the Dragons went into attack mode with less than 20 seconds remaining. With the ball in Sweet’s hands, the Hamilton-bound senior flashed out from behind the net to Quinn’s right and beat him over his left shoulder for the game-winner.
“That was a total team effort and hopefully a sign of things to come,” said Coach Sweet. “I still think we struggled the first half of the season with our fundamentals. We’ve buckled down in practice and recommitted ourselves to the little things like passing and catching. I think it worked out today because we beat a really good team. This is the type of win we need to regain our confidence. We’ve just been inconsistent up until now. If we get 48 minutes of Duxbury lacrosse every game we can beat all the good teams.”
Now sporting a 13-2 record, the No. 1 ranked Dragons will get another major challenge on Friday night when they entertain No. 3 ranked Wellesley HS (10-2) at 7 p.m. on Chandler Field.