A loss of ‘Giant’ proportions

Bainbridge goalkeeper Bryce Stevenson makes a diving save during the WHSBLA Division I state championship game Saturday at Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center. He had nine saves. -
Bainbridge goalkeeper Bryce Stevenson makes a diving save during the WHSBLA Division I state championship game Saturday at Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center. He had nine saves.
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Too much heat and too many turnovers proved to be the downfall of Bainbridge, as the Spartans’ two-year in-state winning streak came to an end Saturday.

SEATTLE CENTER – The expectations were there for the Bainbridge boys’ lacrosse team to fulfill.

They wanted to continue its two-year in-state winning streak, take home a second straight championship and put the cap on two years of success.

But just like Super Bowl 42 four months ago, the Issaquah Eagles played the New York Giants to Bainbridge’s New England Patriots, coming back from a three goal deficit to take down the Spartans 11-8 Saturday at Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center and win its first-ever state lacrosse title in school history.

Issaquah head coach Brandon Fortier said he had “mixed emotions” about the win.

“I love the fact that we beat the best and they are the best – no doubt,” he said. “Over the last 20 years, they’re the best program” in the state.

“I like a lot of those kids on the team and I know them pretty well,” Fortier continued. “(Bainbridge co-head coach) Dejon (Hush) is one of my best friends, so it’s bittersweet in that department.

“But to win a championship over the best is the way” to do it.

It’s the first time Bainbridge has lost a game in the state of Washington since Mercer Island beat them 8-7 in a state semifinal game at home in May 2006.

“I think the heat got to us,” senior co-captain Jordan Foster said afterward. “Maybe some people were nervous – the offense wasn’t producing” like it has the whole season.

“I guess we all looked kinda tired” out on the field, he continued.

But Hush felt the heat wasn’t the problem.

“We had too many unforced turnovers,” he said. “We weren’t able to capitalize when we had opportunities.

“They showed they’re a good team and by letting them hang around, that gave them confidence,” Hush continued. “Giving a team like that confidence is a tough one.”

With the 85-degree heat baking the turf and making things incredibly hot for both teams, Issaquah got on the board first with a score from All-American Travis Wright.

But Bainbridge countered with a goal from Sam Snow after Foster won the face off and quickly dumped it down to him as Snow fought past two defenders for the score.

Wright put another one past the cage at the 10:19 mark, but Zach Ingrasci scored two straight goals to put Bainbridge on top.

The first came when Snow kept Issaquah goalie Nick Yaap from clearing the ball, eventually allowing Ingrasci to easily dump one in.

The second came when Ingrasci took a shot from 10 yards out.

After a tripping penalty by the Eagles’ Jake Director put them a man down, Snow got a feed from Garrett Lund and raced right down the middle to put one in.

After Kevin Nguyen fired a rocket past the Issaquah defense and its goalie Nick Yaap to open the second quarter, it looked like the Spartans would get on one of its patented scoring runs.

Instead a mental error on defense left an Eagle player uncovered, putting Bainbridge on its heels and allowing Director to score off an assist from Evan Greenhall.

That was all the scoring for the rest of the quarter as the Spartans began having trouble completing passes to its cutters as they went to the goal.

When they did, Yaap did his best to block, deflect and turn away shots.

He had 12 saves on the day.

Fortier said he made the switch from former starter Dan Bressler to Yaap, who plays at the attack position, a few games ago to try and make a difference.

“He did a great job in the net,” he said. “I feel bad for our other kid – he did a great job this season, too – but Nick was just a little more confident in clearing out the ball and he made some big saves.”

Hush said he was impressed with Yaap’s play as well.

“He’s a lacrosse player,” he said. “He’s a great team player for doing whatever Coach (Fortier) needs him to do.

“He made some big saves and that just catapulted their team into playing that much harder for a kid that would do that for them.”

The Eagles had its chances to score as they kept control on a long possession late in the second.

Despite interceptions by defenders Dayton Gilbreath and Trent Burroughs, Issaquah forced enough ground balls to keep possession and firing shots at goalie Bryce Stevenson.

Bjorn Ostenson opened the third quarter with a score off an assist from Foster but Bainbridge was held scoreless for the rest of the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the Eagles kept working to find shots, eventually breaking through at the 3:35 mark when Joey Henderson scored off an assist from Wright.

Ten seconds later, Michael Pancottine slipped past several Bainbridge defenders and scored again to close the gap to one.

Issaquah kept the pressure up in the fourth quarter, but kept making poor passes and putting shots wide of the cage.

“To be quite honest, we didn’t play a smart game,” Fortier said. “We had a lot of poor turnovers and a lot of silly things (happen).”

Finally at the 7:13 mark, Wright got his way past the defense from behind the cage and scored as he was going down.

That sparked a 4-0 run as Alex Bates, Henderson and Todd Jones all scored as the Eagles took control on the faceoff time and time again, putting shots past Stevenson as the Eagles faithful went into a frenzy.

Foster, the player usually in for faceoffs, said he banged his knee pretty bad on Wright’s stick as he was guarding him, eventually forcing him out for the rest of the game.

“I couldn’t put any pressure on it,” he said.

“Jordan wants to play every minute but he couldn’t really run out there,” Hush said. “It’s a shame to see him get hurt in the championship game but he’s one kid that anybody would want on his team.”

Jordan Wagner finally broke the scoring drought when he scored at the 4:31 mark off an assist from Nguyen.

Snow scored a few moments later as they caught Yaap out of the box when he brought the ball up and had it knocked away to close the gap to one.

That was the last goal for Bainbridge.

Wright and Jones scored with Stevenson out of the cage to try and help force turnovers to put the game on ice and bring an end to the Spartans’ hopes of a second straight title.

Issaquah had lost twice in the championship game in 2005 and 2006 by one goal and lost in the semifinals last season.

“I feel like we, collectively, have a little bit better talent (than in years past) and have a little bit better chemistry where guys believe in each other,” Fortier said.

“The bottom line is our guys believed in each other and never stopped battling.”

Foster felt that one loss shouldn’t derail what the team has accomplished over time.

“I don’t think this game should show how we actually play,” he said. “I don’t think this game sums up Bainbridge Island varsity lacrosse” as a whole.

But when next year rolls around, the Spartans will be without the services of not only its all-star defense in Gilbreath, Burroughs and Casey Weisner, but Foster, Lund, Evan Wright, Max Olson and Ingrasci are gone as well.

“We lose a lot of players that played a lot of minutes for us,” Hush said. “We got a lot of work (ahead of us) – we need a lot of kids to step into leadership roles as well as roles of getting on the field.”

Along with the All-American and all-state selections, Ingrasci was selected as an academic All-American.

Bainbridge finished with a record of 20-3.

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