Bears stun No. 1 East Lyme in OT and will play Waterford in ECC boys' lacrosse final
Ledyard — With 2 minutes, 40 seconds left in regulation, Tyler Simao scored his fourth goal of the game for Stonington High School, pulling the Bears that much closer to The Upset — and more importantly, to the Eastern Connecticut Conference boys' lacrosse tournament championship game Tuesday at Bill Mignault Field.
The Bears had been in such a position before — a few days earlier — when they led late against Fitch and then wobbled and jiggled their way home, creating more anxiety and heartburn than perhaps necessary.
And then they were passing the Tums again Tuesday, watching No. 1 East Lyme not merely tie the game with 28 seconds left, but have a man advantage to begin overtime.
"It wasn't ideal," Stonington coach Conor Doyle said through a smile a few minutes later.
The ending? More than idea for the Bears, thanks to Ben Massengale's third goal of the game with 2:44 left in overtime, a goal that belongs in program lore and legend, a goal that snapped a 10-10 tie and sent Stonington to the conference tournament championship game.
The No. 4 Bears and their 11-10 win will play No. 2 Waterford Thursday night for the title at Montville High School at 7:30. The Lancers defeated No. 3 Bacon 14-6 in the other semifinal.
Massengale tucked the ball into what looked like an impossible angle against goalie Mason Gallo, whose brilliance kept his team afloat throughout most of the game.
"Things just slowed down as I saw the ball go in," Massengale said. "It didn't feel real."
The reality, though, left the Bears (8-9) elated and the Vikings (10-7) stunned.
"We came out flat and they took advantage," East Lyme coach Gary Wight said. "We got ourselves back in the game. We're dealing with some injuries right now, but that's no excuse. It's next man up in our program."
Jack Campbell (with 1:34 left) and Sean McCusker (with 28 seconds left) rallied the Vikings from a 10-8 deficit to force overtime. The Bears had to kill 32 seconds of a penalty before they could think about the game winner.
Stonington, with four straight goals in the third period, led most of the second half, thanks to three goals in that span from Simao and some clutch goalkeeping from Will Banfield.
"This means a lot to the kids and a lot to the program," Doyle said. "It's been a long time since we beat East Lyme. The kids really deserve this."
Campbell scored three times for the Vikings.
In the second game, C.J. Landry scored five times for Waterford, which scored the first four goals and was never threatened.
"This is when you want to be playing your best, right?" Waterford coach Paul Deon said. "And we want the mindset that we can still play better in the next game."
John Zimmermann and Anthony Stone scored four times apiece for the Lancers, who defeated Stonington during the regular season 9-7.
"It was a really weird game," Deon said. "We were coming off a loss to East Lyme when we hadn't played well. We got Stonington next and kudos to them for playing well. I think we're better and probably they are, too."