Tenacious Mountain Lakes runs out of time

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

LIVINGSTON – Mountain Lakes players may not want to think about it for the next few days or even a few weeks but the second half of Thursday’s 9-8 loss to Glen Ridge in the Group I final might have been their finest hour.

They were the epitome of tenacity. How else can you describe a team that rallied from a 7-2 halftime deficit to account for such a close finish? The Lakers scored three goals in the last two minutes including one with eight seconds remaining. Then they won the faceoff and had one last fleeting chance to score before time ran out on them.

Jon Broome, Bill Burgoyne and Tim LaBeau scored two goals apiece for the top-seeded Lakers in the game that was played at Livingston High’s turf field and delayed a day because of Wednesday’s tornado warnings.

Matt Lander had a hat trick for the Ridgers which captured their first Group I state title with the victory and will play in the quarterfinal round of the Tournament of Champions on Saturday.

Mountain Lakes’ Andrew Portnoy tries to get past a Glen Ridge defender and goalie Mac Davis on Thursday.

Like the regular season matchup in which Mountain Lakes edged GlenRidge 8-7 and ended up in a disputed goal, Thursday’s game also ended in controversy. It started when LaBeau scored an amazing goal with eight seconds remaining to account for the final 9-8 score.

LaBeau, a senior midfielder, hit an acute angle shot from the right side of the field. He turned and fired a high shot that sailed past a Glen Ridge defender and goalkeeper Mac Davis and found the high left corner of the net.

“I just knew there wasn’t much time,’’ LaBeau said. “I just kind of forced it and I got a good shot off.’’

On the faceoff, which LaBeau took,Glen Ridge was called for an infraction which was probably a loose ball push. Mountain Lakes was awarded the ball but the clock, which was being run from the Livingston High pressbox, never stopped. When time ran out the GlenRidge players tossed their sticks in the air, ran onto the field and began to celebrate. The officials got together, including one on the field who is charge of handling these situations, and decided to put 3.7 seconds back on the clock to give the Lakers a final chance despite the screams and consternation of some very angry Glen Ridge fans.

Mountain Lakes tried to get the ball upfield but couldn’t get off a quality shot, it didn’t help that the Livingston clock was set improperly but the officials ruled that enough time had run off to end the game.

“It was really confusing but we did what we did,’’ LaBeau said. “It is what it is. You don’t lose the game on one play.’’

The Lakers and coach Tim Flynn show concern over their poor start during Thursday’s state game.

Glen Ridge coach Carl Houser didn’t mind the opportunity to celebrate twice. He certainly appreciated how hard it was to get past the Lakers.

“We knew they were going to make a run,’’ Houser said. “We’ve always wanted to step up and become an elite program like a Mountain Lakes. I told coach (Tim) Flynn when I started this program that one of the things I wanted to do was mold my program after Mountain Lakes. They have a great tradition. They have an unbelievable program. He does a fantastic job year in and year out. We are just a small school trying to get the most out of their athletes like they do. We’ve been able to build a culture of lacrosse.’’

People on both teams acknowledged the play of Glen Ridge goalie Mac Davis, whose brother Jack Davis was a Division I goalie a few years back.

“Their goalie was a good goalie,’’ LaBeau said. “We didn’t shoot great but their goalie played a great game.’’

Davis had 13 saves in all including some stellar ones early.

 “All year he’s been playing unbelievable for us,’’ Houser said. “We got into that zone and we haven’t played much of it all year. We knew with him in the goal it was going to be hard to score on him from the outside.’’

Glen Ridge took a commanding first half lead and held on for its first Group I title.

One of the reasons for Glen Ridge’s success may have been the addition of Lander to the lineup. The GlenRidge player, who was not at full strength for the regular-season contest between the teams, scored three goals including one with 6:55 left in the game in which he spun completely around to elude two defenders before connecting in the low left side of the net to make it an 8-5 game.

“I thought his goal was huge,’’ Houser said. “The momentum was leaving us. He got it back to a 3-goal game and brought the momentum back and then we kind of hung on for dear life near the end.’’

Even though Glen Ridge had leads of 5-0, 6-1 and 7-2, it could never shake a Mountain Lakes team determined to give tenacity a new name. The Ridgers helped the Lakers by committing some ill-advised penalties that resulted in a couple of man-up goals. The game really should have ended when Glen Ridge’s Jamie Smith connected for a score just outside of two minutes to make it 9-5, but Mountain Lakes wouldn’t let it end.

LaBeau took a Jeff Celniker pass, knifed between two Glen Ridge defenders and scored to make it 9-6 with 1:38 left. Then LaBeau won the faceoff and the Lakers called a time out which eventually resulted in Bill Burgoyne stuffing in an Andrew Portnoy pass just outside the crease with 1:01 left to make it a two-goal game.

A Lakers’ pushing penalty seconds later should have ended it too, but the Ridgers were whistled for having too many men on the field and lost the ball. The Lakers missed several opportunities but then LaBeau put in his goal with eight seconds left.

It would be the last goal of the season for Mountain Lakesbut also an indication of just how determined the Lakers were down to the end. Very few teams could have gotten that close or fought as hard to win.

“We were never going to give up,’’ LaBeau said. “That start was the worst half of lacrosse we’ve ever played. At halftime we just said that we’re not the kind of group that quits. We came up a little short but we gave it everything we had.’’

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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