One to remember: BBA wins state crown

MANCHESTER - It was just over a week ago that the Burr and Burton Academy boys lacrosse team reached the mountaintop - claiming their first D II title in five years.

At the time it all seemed a bit unreal and according to BBA coach Jason Pergament, it took a while to fully come to the realization that his team had won.

"Oh, yeah," he said when asked whether or not it had taken a while to set in. "At the same time it was also, in some ways, you know anti--climatic. It was like 'Alright, we won the state championship. Now what?' Being relatively new to the area, I don't know if I still have fully grasped the implications of what we've accomplished."

Pergament, a first year coach, said his goal from the outset of the season was to win the state championship - something he shared with parents and players alike. Still, there were other goals that the program wanted to achieve as well.

"I'm someone who's very results driven and at the beginning of the season people told me 'Just go .500 and get the boys to kind of improve their character and how they're perceived in the community' and you know that was obviously my overarching goal was to get this program to be seen in a positive light, but I like to win as well," said Pergament.

It was the "cohesion" of the team that Pergament said he believed led to the team's success. Throughout the season, the play of the team changed. In the beginning the team was scoring a lot of their goals in isolation situations. However, as the season progressed, that changed.

"A kid like Ben (Alexopoulos) Ben had 32 goals, but he also had 26 assists. And I think the majority of those assists came in the second half of the season," said Pergament. "He balanced out his style of play to the point in which if they decided to shut him down, he knew he had brothers in arms who, if he could pass the ball to them, would step up and produce results."

Alexopoulos led the team in points with 56 (32 goals, 26 assists), Tom Morgantini led the team in goals with 38 and added 17 assists. Carter Vickers was the second leading goal scorer (37 goals, 9 assists). Max Pagnucco also turned in a good season for the Bulldogs with 25 goals and 27 assists. Jacob Bazyk had 11 goals and eight assists on the year and Andrew Sherras had nine goals and 11 assists.

The team also picked up 665 ground balls throughout the course of the season. Alexopoulos, Pagnucco and Murray Senecal led the team in that category with 102, 87 and 78, respectively.

The team was strong defensively as well, in part due to the play of junior goalie Mike Sztorc in net. Sztorc had 10 saves in the finals against the Gumbies to help the lead the Bulldogs to an 8-7 win and he was dominant throughout the season, recording 202 saves out of 331 shots on net (61 percent) and limiting opponents to an average of 6.9 goals per game.

"Offense can win a game, but defense wins championships," said Pergament. "The fact that we kept our opponents to under seven goals a game all season, how could you not be there at the end if that's what you're doing in lacrosse."

As if his defense weren't enough, Sztorc also put up offensive numbers, scoring two goals on four shots and recording one assist throughout the season.

Looking ahead to next season, though the Bulldogs are losing captains Alexopoulos and Will Helmetag along with Elliot Buckley, Sam McChesney, Sherras, Tyler Johnson, Eric Cerra, Tim Swinarton and Zdenek Sindeclair through graduation, Pergament has young talent coming back next season that played a key role in the title run including Bazyk, Pagnucco and Vickers. Morgantini - who scored the game winning goal with 3.1 seconds left to givef the Bulldogs their first championship since 2009 - will also be returning for his senior campaign.

One player that will not be returning to the though is Sztorc. Pergament said that because Sztorc played one year of varsity lacrosse in Connecticut before coming to Burr and Burton, this past season was his fourth year of varsity level competition making him ineligible for play next season under VPA (Vermont Principal's Association) rules.

"The VPA is saying he's used up his eligibility so won't be able to join us next year. So, you know that was something we knew going into the last game," said Pergament. "He had appealed and we were waiting for a final verdict on the appeal, but I looked at Mike and I told him 'If this is going to be your last game at Burr and Burton let it be the game where we win the state championship. There is no better way to go out."

Though the team got off to a shaky start, losing their first two games, Pergament reminded them that they had a whole season to play.

"One thing I told the boys all season is that our win loss record in the beginning is not what will determine our success at the end. It is can we peak at the right time, can we peak at the critical moment and I felt like we did," Pergament said. "Coming into the postseason we were really hitting a stride. We beat Brattleboro in a huge game at night and it led to some pretty awesome stuff in the playoffs."

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