BALLSTON SPA – Under the lights and above the rain-soaked turf, Ballston Spa Scotties lacrosse made school history Thursday night in its Section II Class B semifinal against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
The Scotties never trailed in their 10-6-win, a victory which propelled them to the school’s first ever sectional final.
“It’s a great achievement for the kids, that’s all I wanted, to get a shot to go to the finals,” said Joe Pollicino, Ballston Spa’s head coach. “We knew we’d have to play [No. 1-seeded] Nisky [in the Section II final]. You want to beat the best to be the best and we had to beat one of the best tonight. Burnt Hills is a class act.”
Ballston Spa’s Jake Gargiulo led his team with three goals and an assist, scoring his team’s first goal at 9:50 in the first quarter and its last goal with 2:51 left in the fourth to ice his team’s bid for a Section II title. Colten Moseman added two goals in the win.
“It feels awesome,” Gargiulo said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited on a sports team. It’s the first time for our school to go to a sectional final but also for me, that’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt in my life.”
The Scotties jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter, but saw that erode in the second quarter when the Spartans scored off the sticks of Austin Clark and Billy Chapman, 2-2. Both teams see-sawed when Ballston Spa’s Kyle Abdelattif and Andrew Gentile (two goals) scored as well as Burnt Hills’ Eric Dillon (three goals) to make it 4-3 Ballston Spa.
Coming out of half time the Scotties created separation, outscoring the Spartans 4-1 in the third, including a back-breaking goal with less than one second remaining in the quarter.
With six seconds left in the third quarter, John McDonald carried the ball toward the crease, dumped the ball to Trey Swingruber who then finished with 0:00.4 seconds left on the clock for the 8-4 lead.
“The goal at the end of the third quarter was huge,” Pollicino said. “Going up four heading into the fourth quarter, that was fantastic. Trey did a great job. He was out for a week and half with a concussion. I thought he was huge in the game, groundballs, defense. He did a great job.”
“I was coming in from the box and coach was calling my name,” said McDonald, who had a goal and an assist in the game. “[Burnt Hills] knew I was dodging, the last dodge of the quarter. They doubled me early and I saw Trey coming over across the crease and I got it over to him and he finished.”
It was a high-energy goal lacking from the Burnt Hills attack.
“We had a defensive breakdown there,” said Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake head coach Tom Schwan. “That provided a big boost for them. That boost carried them. It carried them for several minutes. They were the better team tonight. They capitalized on their opportunities. We didn’t.”
Jon Blake, Ballston Spa’s goalie, and the pipe came through with huge saves to squash the Spartans’ chance to draw ahead, especially in the first half. Blake ended the game with 17 saves and the pipe made five.
“We hit the pipe five times in the first half,” Schwan said. “Those pipes kept us from going ahead by one or two goals and getting the momentum and playing form on top.”
“I was seeing the ball really well,” Blake said. “My defenders put the shooters in good spots for me to make the saves.”
The Scotties reach their first sectional final, but they do so against Niskayuna, the No. 1 Class B-team in the state. The Silver Warriors stand at 18-0 and just rolled over Scotia in their semifinal game, 17-1. Nisky has out-scored its opponents in the playoffs 46-3.
The previous two meetings between Ballston Spa and Nisky ended in 19-1 and 16-4 drubbings.
“I think it’s like the USA playing Russia in hockey back in the ’70s and ’80s,” Pollicino said. “You’re going to play them nine out of 10 times, you’ve got to hope you’ve got your best game that day and play up to them. You’ve got control tempo offensively and defensively and good things happen.”
The Scotties take on Nisky Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at UAlbany.
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