Portsmouth’s comeback falls short in D-2 state lacrosse finals

Patriots lose bid for undefeated season, fall 12-10 to Rebels

By Jim McGaw
Posted 6/3/19

PORTSMOUTH — Despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback, the Portsmouth High boys lacrosse team’s quest for a perfect season and a Division II title came to an end at the hands of …

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Portsmouth’s comeback falls short in D-2 state lacrosse finals

Patriots lose bid for undefeated season, fall 12-10 to Rebels


PORTSMOUTH — Despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback, the Portsmouth High boys lacrosse team’s quest for a perfect season and a Division II title came to an end at the hands of South Kingstown in Sunday’s state championship game.

After trailing for most of the game, the Patriots scored three unanswered goals in the fourth quarter to cut the Rebels’ lead to 11-10 with nearly three minutes still left to play.

With Portsmouth’s fans going wild with excitement, the Patriots won the ensuing face-off, but a crucial steal by the Rebels’ Jack McCarty with about a minute left led to teammate Max Willette’s fifth goal of the afternoon, essentially sealing the win.

“Too little, too late,” is how Portsmouth’s head coach, Ben Willett, summed up the disappointing end result for his team.

South Kingstown not only stopped Portsmouth from running the table this year — the squad finished the regular season at 15-0 — but it avenged a decisive 19-11 loss to the Patriots on April 12. 

In both games, the Rebels enjoyed a halftime lead — 8-3 on Sunday. This time around, however, they made it stick.

The game began with the two teams trading goals. The Rebels’ Willette struck first on an assist by Curtis Rasmussen with just over a minute into the game. The Patriots’ Marcus Evans answered two minutes later to tie things up.

After another score by the Rebels to make it 2-1, Evans struck again, on an assist by Liam Cooney, to knot things at 2 with about five and a half minutes left in the first quarter. 

Two more goals by South Kingstown — one with an extra man due to a Portsmouth penalty, made it 4-2 Rebels at the end of the quarter.

About a minute and a half into the second quarter, Jack Cianciolo scored on a great pass from Cooney across the net, making it 4-3.

After that, things went sour for the Patriots, who gave up four unanswered goals and went into halftime trailing 8-3. 

“In the second quarter, a a couple things didn’t go our way,” said Mr. Willett. “At times, there was some disfunction among the team; they were getting a little rattled. We lost our heads a little bit in the second quarter and we let them get a big lead.”

Second half

Cianciolo scored his second goal for the Patriots a little over 4 minutes into the third quarter, on an assist by Evans, to make it 8-4. South Kingstown’s Willette made it 9-4 on an extra-man goal with about three minutes left in the quarter.

About 30 seconds later, however, Cianciolo struck again (assist by Wyatt Huggins) to make it 9-5. Then senior Cade McHugh stole the ball and later scored to make it 9-6 with a little over a minute left.

South Kingstown extended the lead to 10-6 with Willette’s third goal with almost four minutes gone in the fourth quarter. Cianciolo, with an assist by McHugh, scored his fourth goal of the afternoon to make it 10-7 with about six and a half minutes left.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth goalkeeper Connor Little was playing a great second half, making several spectacular blocks and saves to keep his team in the game.

Comeback falls short

When South Kingstown’s Willette scored his fourth goal to give his team an 11-7 lead with under eight minutes left in regulation, Portsmouth’s hopes seemed nearly dashed for good.

But then Patriots sophomore Wyatt Huggins scored two quick goals —on assists by Evans and Charlie Mottur — in less than a minute, making it 11-9 in favor of the Rebels with about six and a half minutes left.

Forty seconds later, a penalty on South Kingstown led to an extra-man score by McHugh, who held the ball for a few seconds before rifling it straight past the Rebels’ goalkeeper, bringing Portsmouth to within a goal.

But then Willette took a pass from the Rebels’ attacker Michael Boynton and put it past Little to give South Kingstown a two-goal cushion. When the whistle blew, McHugh doubled over as though he had been punched in the gut.

“I told the guys, there’s nobody else I’d rather coach go into a second half with their backs against the wall than this group. They battled, they fought, they stuck together, they gave it everything they had,” said Mr. Willett. “Of course, it’s disappointing to come this far and have our goal for a state championship come up just short, but it’s a very young team and most of them have two, three more shots at this.

Indeed, the team is losing only McHugh and Glavine Waldner, who did not play Sunday.

“Of course, we wanted to get it done today, so it’s extremely disappointing. But they left it all out there. I’m really proud to coach Portsmouth High and I’m proud to work with this group every single day. They’ve made it a joy this season. They work hard, they do what is asked of them, which is a lot,” he said.

“I’m proud of my guys for the fight they showed all game. They played with class, they worked their tails off all season and they gave it their all today.”

Semifinal win

The Patriots advanced to Sunday’s championship game by defeating East Greenwich 12-7 in the semifinals at home on Wednesday, May 29. 

Jack Cianciolo led Portsmouth scorers with four goals. Notching two goals each were Cade McHugh (four assists), Liam Cooney (three assists) and Wyatt Huggins (one assist). Niklas Pederson (one assist) and Jaxon Kane each added a goal, and Marcus Evans had an assist.

Connor Little had 12 saves in goal and Charlie Mottur won 16 of the 24 face-offs.

The Patriots led at halftime, 8-3.

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