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Big-time venue, big-time results
The Spartans showed Saturday why Bainbridge boys lacrosse is truly a dynasty.
Its an overused word, dynasty, thrown out by fans and media types to three-in-a-row and four-in-a-row title-winning teams.
The Chicago Bulls won six titles in eight NBA seasons, but only three in a row. Red Auerbach, who led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships from 57-69, once said, Three in a row? Thats not a dynasty.
With the Spartans claiming their 10th state title in 12 years Saturday at Seahawk Stadium, they would meet even Auerbachs standard.
Facing the team that ended their run for an eighth consecutive championship in 2001, Bainbridge had something to prove against a team that had nothing to lose. And Mercer Island came out hungry.
Islander Chris Taylor opened up the scoring two minutes into the game, and the feeling out period for both teams was over. It was run- and-gun lacrosse played by the best teams in the league.
Joe Picha might have challenged hockey legend Wayne Gretzky for best work behind the net. Picha whipped accurate and effective centering passes from the office into the slot all night long.
He found a net-crashing Andy Kelly, who redirected the pass for a goal at the eight minute mark.
Mercer rallied to score the next two goals, but a leaping David Vanderhoek scored at 2:06, and with four seconds remaining in the first period, Spencer Evans tied the game at three apiece.
Less than two minutes into the second quarter, Vanderhoek and Kelly broke upfield and with a fluid flurry of passes, got Islander goaltender Jereme Raquepau moving side to side. Vanderhoek scored, Kelly got the assist.
The Islanders started applying pressure to the Spartan defense. Bainbridge goalkeeper Alex Jacques stood his ground, but bobbled a clearing attempt that popped out to an open Islanders player in the crease.
Jacques made a highlight-reel, point-blank save, then had the presence of mind to rip an outlet pass up the gut to a breaking Picha, who scored to bring the Sparts to 5-3.
But Mercer Island countered. David Sandman, although flattened by a cross-check in the act of shooting, brought the Islanders back to within one.
The third period was a scoring see-saw, tilting back and forth between a pair of teams heavy with offensive firepower.
Picha scored on a Vanderhoek pass, and returned the favor with an assist on Vanderhoeks 8:31 goal for a hat trick.
The Spartans seemed poised to break the game open, but an untimely slashing penalty left them a man down, and the Islanders scored 13 seconds into the penalty.
Riding that momentum into the Spartan zone, they scored two more in a span of 26 seconds to tie the game at seven.
Vanderhoek and Picha teamed up again for a score at 2:02, but Mercers Luke Larson countered with a laser that found its way past Jacques.
Evans won the face off after Larsons goal, maintained possession and barreled down the middle of the field, splitting the Mercer Island defense. He buried a hard shot that put an exclamation point at the end of the quarter for the Spartans.
The fourth period was all Bainbridge. Stingy defense and continued explosive offense frustrated the Islanders, and they took it out on the Sparts physically.
A crushing check on Sam Cameron in the slot quieted the crowd, and left Cameron motionless flat on his back as athletic trainers tended to him. Cameron ended up leaving the game.
Play continued with a Mercer Island penalty for slashing, and Kelly capitalized on the man advantage, bringing the score to 12-8.
To record his own hat trick in the state championship game, Kelly scored one more and that was it for Mercer Island.