AMSTERDAM — A team can’t win a lacrosse game in the first quarter, but it can set the tone like Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake did Tuesday night.
The Spartans raced to a five-goal lead and did all of the necessary things to maintain it in a 15-9 Section II Class B championship win over Ballston Spa at Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy.
“Being up 6-1, we knew what we had to do to stay on it,” Burnt Hills senior midfielder Caeden LaPietro said after contributing four goals and an assist in the victory. “Getting up like that gives you a lot of momentum, and we were able to keep it going.”
Top-seeded Burnt Hills had rallied from a 6-2 deficit to beat second-seeded Ballston Spa in a previous meeting last month 11-9. In the rematch, the Spartans (14-1) never trailed after a 5-0, first-quarter run enabled them to go up 6-1. Their lead grew to 9-2 in the second frame.
“They blitzed us,” Ballston Spa coach Lucas Snow said. “We had a struggle with our base defense. Credit to them. They had our heads spinning.”
Ballston Spa traded goals with Burnt Hill over the final three quarters, but needed a big run to get back in it. That never came.
“Faceoffs and good goalie play helped us keep that lead,” LaPietro said.
“We kept harping on winning ground balls and continuing to battle,” Burnt Hills coach Tom Schwan said after his team finished on top for the first time since beating Ballston Spa in the 2016 title game. “When you get a five- or six-goal lead, sometimes the knees don’t bend as much. We wanted to keep winning ground balls because possession is huge.”
Burnt Hills had the ball quite a bit in that opening quarter, when LaPietro scored two goals and JD Townsend, Shane McClernan and Kevin Carney each delivered one in the 5-0 spurt.
That group anchored the offense as Carney finished with three goals and three assists, and Townsend and McClernan both totaled three goals and an assist. That group is part of an offensive cast Schwan called the best he’s had in his 11 years with the team.
“It is because we have eight guys who can throw and catch,” Schwan said. “Normally, we have three or four.”
Geno DeRubertis, Matt King, Erik Gottmann and Owen Walsh scored two goals apiece for the Scotties (12-3), with DeRubertis and King also notching an assist. Walsh scored their final goal with 7:20 left to get his team within five at 14-9. Rocco Mareno answered with his second goal for Burnt Hills with 5:45 to go, and afterward, the Spartans successfully fended off two man-up opportunities for the Scotties.
“We had some great defensive series,” Schwan said.
Several of the Burnt Hills players, including LaPietro, played on the school’s football team that had lost to Troy in the Fall II season’s Class A title game.
“We wanted to win that. We got there and couldn’t finish it off,” said LaPietro, who will be playing lacrosse at the University at Albany. “This is a great way to end my high school sports career.”
Ballston Spa had won the last two Class B titles, in 2019 against Burnt Hills and in 2018 against Queensbury. The entire spring sports season in 2020 was canceled because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re proud of them, and they should be proud of what they accomplished,” Snow said of his group that lost only to Niskayuna as well as Burnt Hills twice. “Sometimes you put in all the effort and you don’t get the reward.”
Schwan said he is looking forward to future meetings with Ballston Spa.
“In the last six or seven years, we’ve won two championships and they’ve won two championships. We both have a couple of title-game losses. We knocked them out in the semifinals and they knocked us out,” he said. “The Route 50 rivalry is still going strong.”
Ballston Spa 1 3 4 1 — 9
Burnt Hills 6 3 5 1 — 15
Ballston Spa scoring: DeRubertis 2-1, King 2-1, Gottmann 2-0, Walsh 2-0, Serina 1-2. Burnt Hills scoring: Swisher 0-3, Muller 0-1, Townsend 3-1, LaPietro 4-1, Mareno 2-1, Carney 3-3, McClernan 3-1. Goalies: Ballston Spa, Zichelli, 11 saves; Stedry, 5 saves. Burnt Hills, Manning, 14 saves.