Mission accomplished: Bulldogs bring home state title

CASTLETON - With the clock winding down late in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 7 with the Division II boys lacrosse title on the line, it almost seemed like whoever had possession last was going to win. As it turned out, that was Burr and Burton Academy.

With about a minute left to play BBA (12-7) held, looking for a good shot opportunity. The moment came on their second attempt when Tom Morgantini took a pass from Max Pagnucco and scored what was likely the most important goal of his career with 3.1 seconds remaining - causing a chorus of screams and cheers from the stands and the BBA sidelines - and essentially sealing the game for the Bulldogs.

The win over previously undefeated Green Mountain Valley School (14-1) gave the Bulldogs their first state title since 2009 and there was no other school that the Bulldogs would have wanted to defeat to take the crown.

"It's awesome," said junior goalie Mike Sztorc. "Since the seniors have been playing them they've knocked us out every single year to come back [and win] in the state championship in our last year, there's no better feeling than that."

Morgantini expressed similar sentiments.

"It means a lot," Morgantini said. "I've watched these guys three years in a row. We've been knocked out three times. The seniors on this team, we're sick of losing to these guys. This win means a lot."

The moment also meant a lot to BBA's first year coach, Jason Pergament.

"The state title means more than anything else. It's all about beating the best team in the state," he said. "[When] there were three seconds left I just knew that we had the game and I just let myself feel emotional and dropped to my knees and accepted victory. It was amazing."

In the third quarter, the game tying goal scored by the Gumbies Patrick Gallagher sparked some controversy as officials took some time to determine whether or not it should be waved off. The determination that the goal would stand was something Morgantini said sparked Burr and Burton.

"We were a little deflated, but that motivated us. The goal over here, a questionable call, that fired us up," he said. "We were ready to go for that final minute."

The goal wasn't the only one to spark controversy. Near the end of the first half, officials missed a goal scored by the Gumbies and allowed play to continue.

The fourth quarter saw both teams forcing the action, taking shot after shot, only to see them turned away by Sztorc (10 saves) and Green Mountain Valley goalie Casey Cardon (10 saves).

"Casey's been great all year long. We've got two great goalkeepers. We're real lucky in that respect and they're working well together," said Green Mountain Valley coach Sam Jackson. "Eric and Casey have both done a fantastic job for us. In this particular game, I thought Casey did a fantastic job."

Vickers opened up the scoring for the Bulldogs about midway through the first. BBA held the 1-0 advantage before Green Mountain Valley was able to equalize with 48.9 remaining in the quarter.

After a goal by Christian Gallagher in the second to put the Gumbies up 3-1, BBA rattled off three more goals to make it 4-3 going into the half.

Max Stamler scored with just under a minute gone in the third to tie the game 4-4, but midway through the quarter Ben Alexopoulos (2 goals) scored again to put the Bulldogs on top 5-4. About :10 later Pagnucco (2 goals) added an insurance goal.

The Gumbies attack was unrelenting though. A minute later Sztorc came up with a big save to preserve the two goal lead. Unfortunately, it would not last long as freshman Jack Despres netted home off and assist from Christian Gallagher.

The Bulldogs got it right back though with Vickers finding the back of the net for his second goal of the afternoon.

With the third quarter beginning to come to a close, Patrick Gallagher was able to pull Green Mountain Valley back to within a goal - making it 7-6 headed into the final 12 minutes.

When BBA got possession in the waning moments, Morgantini said there was only one thing on the team's mind.

"We wanted one more look. We were looking for that last shot before overtime and we got it," he said. "It felt pretty great."

Follow on Twitter @BrandonCanevari.


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