EAST GREENBUSH — The Niskayuna boys’ lacrosse team raised another Section II championship plaque Friday night after raising its level of play against a Bethlehem squad that never backed down.
Freshman Brock Behrman sparked a four-goal run with a hat trick in the third quarter, and the Silver Warriors strung four more goals in the final frame to beat the Eagles 11-6 in the Class A final at Columbia High School.
The grand comeback gave Niskayuna (No. 1 seed, 19-0) its third title in as many years, and 17 of them in the 26-year history of the varsity program.
“It was a team thing in the first half, and a team thing in the second half,” said Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang, whose Silver Warriors trailed 4-3 at the intermission. “In the first half, we had turnovers and miscommunication. In the second half, we had a better pace of the game and less turnovers.”
Bethlehem (No. 2, 16-3) had halftime momentum when Liam Ferris scored with four seconds left in the second quarter, and another goal by Jackson Carroll gave the Eagles a 5-3 advantage 1:28 into the third period. Gabe Nish began Niskayuna’s comeback with 6:04 left in the third, and the goals and defensive stands kept coming after that.
“[Bethlehem] coach [Dave] Rounds and his staff do a great job with their kids. They kept pressuring us,” Vorgang said. “I told my guys at the half, ‘The good thing is you have another 24 minutes,’ and we came out and made more plays than they did.”
Behrman made three of them in a span of just over two minutes when the freshman attackman scored three unassisted goals to push Niskayuna ahead 7-5.
“I had a rough first half,” said Behrman, who finished with three goals and an assist after going scoreless over those first two quarters. “The message at halftime was execute. We came out in the second half and executed.”
Behrman began his splurge with 3:18 left in the third, scored again with 2:13 left and again at the 1:01 mark, scoring each goal after winning a one-on-one matchup with a defender.
“He’s amazing already,” said Niskayuna senior Griffin King, the star of last year’s title-game win over Shenendehowa. “Tonight, he uses a hesitation move to score. He pump fakes it and scores. He can do so many things.”
“One of our goals was to not let them go on a run of two or more goals,” Rounds said. “He [Behrman] went on a run all by himself.”
King began the fourth-quarter scoring and ended it, and in between the midfielder’s goals, David Guest and Drew Collins notched goals.
“In the fourth quarter their experience in these type of situations really came through,” Rounds said. “They were calm and cool, and we pressed a little.”
“In the first half, we were getting looks, but we weren’t hitting our shots,” King said. “In the second half, we started to hit our shots.”
Ferris scored three goals for Bethlehem, the junior’s third making it a 7-6 game with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
“It was a 7-6 game [early in the fourth quarter], and he [Ferris] hit the pipe or hit their goalie and they got possession and made it a two-goal game,” Rounds said. “That deflated us a little bit.”
Niskayuna’s defense made several big plays in the fourth quarter, including an interception by Noah Watso-Hanson that led to King’s goal that made it 8-6. Before Guest made it 9-6, Silver Warriors’ netminder Drew D’Allaird stopped a low drive for one of his 15 saves.
“Our defense really locked in,” Behrman said. “Our defense gave us offense.”
Niskayuna had a lot more of that in the regular season when the state’s No. 2 team defeated Bethlehem 15-8. In the rematch, Bethlehem was determined to make it a much more competitive game, and did just that.
“I have nothing but pride and respect for my guys,” Rounds said of his Eagles, who climbed to No. 17 in the state. “They set a new standard. I was looking at our books, and they broke 12 individual and school records, and I haven’t finished yet.”
Bethlehem lost to Shenendehowa in double overtime 6-5 in its only other title-game appearance in 2010.
Niskayuna will play the Section I champion Mamaroneck in a sub-regional game Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Columbia. Niskayuna mounted a big comeback last year when it beat Mamaroneck 14-13 in a regional title game and advanced to the state semifinals.
Bethlehem 2 2 2 0 — 6
Niskayuna 2 1 4 4 — 11
Bethlehem scoring: L. Ferris 3-1, Reilly 1-1, Richards 0-1, Carroll 1-0, Hyams 1-0. Niskayuna scoring: Nish 1-2, Brownell 2-0, Behrman 3-1, Collins 1-0, King 2-2, Guest 1-1, McCullough 1-0.
Goalkeepers: Bethlehem, Stento, 9 saves; Niskayuna, D’Allaird, 15 saves.