DANVERS — The St. John’s Prep boys lacrosse team wasn’t about to start a new trend Saturday.
The two-time state champion Eagles lost a rare in-state, in-league game last week to Catholic Conference rival BC High. It was cause for much consternation among the Eagle contingent. Saturday, though a struggle, The Prep (12-2) got back to its winning ways with a 12-11 overtime victory over Staples of Westport, Conn.
“We told the kids after the (BC High loss) that it was a long time coming,” said Prep coach John Pynchon. “We got on them a little bit, had a really good emotional meeting, had a talk, did some reflecting and came ready to play today.”
Saturday’s game provided a glimpse of contrasting styles. Staples preferred a slower pace, with lengthy possessions at the Prep end of the field and a perimeter-based offense reminiscent of the old “four corners” offense Dean Smith used to use at North Carolina before college basketball went to a clock.
St. John’s, meanwhile, played a little more up-tempo when it gained possession — a style that was most successful in the second quarter, when the Eagles scored six of their 12 goals.
All-everything Jimmy Ayers led the way on offense for The Prep with four goals, with Matt Morrow chipping in with three, including the game-winner early in overtime. Morrow also got the game-tying tally with only 1:29 remaining in regulation on a wicked shot from Wreckers’ goalie Scott Kosakorski’s left.
Early on, it looked as if the Prep’s malaise would continue as Staples scored two early goals by Tyler Clarke (one of three) and Gavin Rothbury before the Eagles could get untracked. But The Prep didn’t stay off the board for long. Lucas Verrier and Ayers scored in rapid-fire succession to make it 2-2 before Staples scored one more before the quarter ended.
The second quarter was the Eagles’ best of the afternoon as they blanked Staples 6-0 to go up 8-3 at the half. Ayers scored twice in the period, with Jake Vana, Brendan Powers, Cam McCarthy and Morrow netting the others.
However, a combination of a Wreckers change in defensive strategy got Staples back into the game.
“They shut off our short stick men,” said Pynchon, “and it got us out of rhythm and we made some unforced errors.”
Where The Prep blanked Staples in the second quarter, Staples returned the favor in the next 12 minutes while scoring four goals — two of them by Clarke, to make the score 8-7.
The fourth quarter proved much more frenetic. Ayers got his fourth of the day less than two minutes in, coming around from behind the net to tuck one past Kosakorski to make it 9-7. But two quick ones, both by Rothbury, tied the score up again with 6:02 remaining.
Chris Esposito, who won 16 of 27 faceoffs, took perhaps his most important draw moments later, snagging one and running straight for Kosakorski before shooting it past him to break the tie, making the score 10-9. Clarke knotted the score up again before the Wreckers went ahead, 11-10, with 2:03 left.
After Morrows’ goal tied the score, St. John’s got possession in overtime and kept it, with Ayers getting a key ground ball to the left of Kosakorski to ensure that the ball stayed down that end of the field.
“If he doesn’t get that ground ball,” said Pynchon, “who knows what would have happened.”
Almost seconds later, Vana fed Morrow, who scored from dead-on in front of the net to set off a tumultuous celebration at midfield.
Prep goalie Gavin Kornitsky made 11 saves on 22 shots on goal, many of them game-savers.
The Eagles are back in action Tuesday at Catholic Memorial (6).