Next stop: UVM -- BBA holds off South Burlington, books trip to title game

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MANCHESTER — As the third quarter ticked down to its conclusion, it was tense at Taylor Field as the No. 7 seed South Burlington cut No. 3 Burr and Burton's lead to one after a goal from Will Balkan.

With 10 seconds left in the quarter, BBA picked up a loose ball and in the blink of an eye, Egan Schmitt beat the buzzer to give BBA an advantage they wouldn't relinquish, as the Bulldogs advanced to their first Division I title game in team history with a 10-7 win on Tuesday.

"The bench practically exploded on that one," said second-year Burr and Burton coach Tom Grabher. "It was fantastic. This team has done things like that a lot this season, they aren't stopping until the clock hits zero."

Four players got into the scoring column for the Bulldogs, led by three goals each from Logan Sands and Jake Baker. Sands also added a pair of assists. Schmitt and Johnny Miceli each chipped in a pair.

Nico Strempek led the Wolves with three goals and Cam Chiari added two. Griffin Lawrence and Balkan had the others.

"I'm so excited for the kids, they've worked really hard and have been focused all year," Grabher said. "They are pushing and supporting each other and that's what got them here."

The game got off to an auspicious start when Lawrence gave South Burlington a 1-0 lead about halfway through the first quarter.

But BBA quickly recovered, Sands scoring the next two to take a 2-1 lead after the first.

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In the second quarter, Baker got in the scoresheet with a rocket shot past South Burlington goalie Brett Bohlmann for a 3-1 lead. Patiently, BBA's offense looked for openings, Schmitt made it 4-1 dodging past defenders and then on the man-up with under a minute left until halftime, Baker scored off a feed from Sands to go into the break up 5-1.

BBA kept the Wolves off the board for 18 minutes between the first and second quarters.

"That's been our thing all year, our defense doesn't give up a lot of shots, it's a full team effort out there," Grabher said.

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During the break, Sands said all the talk was about coming out with good energy, preventing a run from the Wolves.

But South Burlington came out fired up and scored the next three goals, a pair from Strempek and one from Chiari to cut the lead to 5-4 with 5:46 left in the third.

"That's playoff lacrosse against a good team, they will counter," Grabher said. "They wanted to play on Saturday like we do. They are an experienced team, so we expected [the run], but it's how you respond, your resiliency to getting punched and they did."

Miceli put a stop to the stretch with a goal with 3:36 left off an helper from Sands before Balkan scored.

That set up Schmitt's goal with 0.5 seconds remaining in the quarter.

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"I didn't realize there was that little time left, but once I did, we were hyped and that carried over to the fourth quarter," Sands said.

BBA scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter, one from Sands on a nifty move catching the pass and scoring in one motion, and the other from Miceli, pushing the lead back to four at 9-5 with time ticking away.

South Burlington would not quit, scoring the next two, Strempek and Chiari, the latter with 3:52 left to cut the lead to two.

Then it was Baker's time to shine, putting in a yeoman's effort to get through four South Burlington defenders for the final goal of the day with 2:50 left.

"They got a couple of goals at the end, I hate to give up goals," Grabher said. "They came back and got us concerned, but we kept responding and finished strong. We've talked about finishing in the playoffs, it's a different two weeks."

BBA is scheduled to face CVU on Saturday with the state title on the line. The six-time defending champions squeaked out a 10-9 win over Essex on Tuesday.

"I'm happy to spend a few more days with the guys, and for them to participate in a finals," Grabher said. "[CVU is] always up there, they have a tremendously coached team, and you're going to see teams like that in the playoffs, a perennial strong team with talent and depth. I'm excited to go up there and have a shot at it."


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