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    Sunday, May 26, 2024

    It’s the Bears and Vikings for the ECC boys’ lacrosse final

    Waterford — Here it was, the game that could deliver Stonington High back to the game that haunted them all of the boys’ lacrosse offseason. And yet the Bears played a first half against Norwich Free Academy in Tuesday’s Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament semifinals that had many of the Bears muttering to themselves.

    “Too many assumptions,” Stonington coach Conor Doyle said. “Just because we made the finals last year, we forgot you have to get there first.”

    Stonington, which lost to Waterford in overtime last season in the finals, shook off the early malaise (and a slim 7-6 halftime lead) and earned an 18-13 win and a trip to the championship game Thursday night.

    The Bears will play the team they eliminated in the tournament last season, top-seeded East Lyme, which survived Waterford’s furious rally and won, 9-8, in the other semifinal.

    Now the Stonington players get to finish what began months ago.

    “It means everything,” Stonington senior Cam Elenteny said. “Even back in January, back when we were having captains’ practices, winning the ECC title has been the goal.”

    Elenteny scored four goals for the Bears, the last of which was an over-the-back-shoulder beauty meant for highlight reels.

    “Sometimes, it just comes to me on the field,” Elenteny said. “I really don’t like to showboat. Sometimes, it’s honestly the best shot to take.”

    Nate Mahoney scored four times, while Ethan Mahoney and Ben Massengale had three goals apiiece and Will French and Tyler Simao had two each.

    “NFA definitely outhustled us in the first half,” Doyle said. “I don’t have the ground ball stats but I’m sure NFA won them. In the third (quarter, where the Bears outscored NFA 7-2) we played with all out intensity. That’s what we have to do.”

    Logan Jenkins and Anthony Ballestrini scored four goals apiece for NFA.

    Doyle knows the pain his players felt after last season’s near miss.

    “The seniors are definitely hungry for it,” he said. “They’ve been talking about it a lot. We took care of business during the regular season winning the division. Now we have another opportunity.”

    Doyle at least has family bragging rights. NFA’s assistant coach is his dad, Mike.

    “He’s the reason I’m coaching,” Conor Doyle said. “It’s fun competing against each other. But the loser buys dinner.”

    The Vikings, meanwhile, had a 9-4 lead entering the fourth period, thanks to the third of Sawyer Tighe’s three second-half goals. But from there, Logan Peabody, Trevor Stringer, Jackson Huta and Griffin Neal scored, bringing the Lancers back within a goal with 3:42 left.

    “We like to make things interesting,” East Lyme coach Gary Wight said. “We got a lead and lost our focus. But at the end we were able to reel it back together.”

    Aidan Patterson and Drew Sager had two goals apiece for the Vikings, who remember the semifinal loss to Stonington a year ago.

    “We still have the taste,” Wight said, “and remember what that felt like. I feel like the guys are ready to go.”

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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