ENGLEWOOD - Beating the top-ranked Arapahoe (Centennial, Colo.) boys lacrosse team has proven difficult enough this season, nevermind trying to do it at a distinct disadvantage.
Fourth-seeded Columbine (Littleton) found that out the hard way Wednesday in the state semifinals at Englewood High School, as the Warriors used crucial penalties to their advantage to survive with a 10-9 victory.
Junior Tyler Widlund scored the winner with 29 seconds remaining, off an assist from J.D. Hall, only 16 seconds after Columbine was whistled for an illegal body check. As it did to open the fourth quarter, Arapahoe (18-0) wasted little time capitalizing when Columbine was down a defender.
"I saw the defense start to shift over, and I saw J.D. get (the ball) at the top," said Widlund, who scored three goals in the fourth quarter. "The defense slid over late, so I was calling for the ball. I got the ball and buried it."
Widlund said the strategy entering the final stretch was to be patient, knowing Columbine would be down a player if the game went to an extra period.
"It was good that it was tied, because we knew we could still go into overtime and maybe get a chance there," Widlund said of the man advantage. "We knew not to force it or to take any outside shots, and eventually the play would come to us."
Columbine led 8-5 to start the fourth quarter, but was hit with a non-releaseable penalty as the period opened. With the Rebels (14-4) short a player on the field for a minute, Arapahoe immediately scored two of its five goals in the final period.
Michael Babb (two goals, one assist) tallied first before Widlund scored 45 seconds later, at the 11:05 mark. Both goals were assisted by Tyler Lampard. Widlund also scored another goal early in the fourth, and the Warriors eventually tied it on a goal by Don-Shae Ragland with just less than 8 minutes remaining.
"We didn't stop fighting. We just kept digging deep," Widlund said of his team's mentality entering the fourth. "We didn't want it to end here. We knew we had been down more to better teams this season."
Columbine, which was in the final four for the first time, was led by Ryan Kelly, who scored three goals. Dalton Sierra (two goals), Jack Stebbins (two goals, one assist) and goalie Evan Hartman (17 saves) also paced the Rebels' effort.
Cherry Creek 4, Regis Jesuit 3
In the second semifinal, the Bruins had just enough offense to support a stellar defense to advance to play for the title.
scored two goals for Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village)
(15-3), the second coming early in the fourth quarter to break a 2-2 tie. Wil Lemon
, off a terrific feed from Kendall Williams
, added a goal a just a little over 2 minutes later to provide the Bruins some breathing room.
But defending champion Regis Jesuit (Aurora) did not quit, largely behind the superb effort of senior All-American Tanner Scales.
The Raiders (12-6) cut the deficit to one goal on a tally from senior Ryan Ball, his second goal, with 3 minutes, 42 seconds remaining. The goal came after a steal by Scales, who also set up Regis Jesuit's second goal of the game after forcing a steal with tenacious on-ball defense.
The Cherry Creek defense - led by Jake Lindell, Matt Goettelman, Hunter Burton and Ryder Clark - responded yet again and was stellar in front of goalie Sam Arthur down the stretch. Fittingly, Arthur stopped one final shot as the buzzer sounded to preserve the win.
500 Internal Server Error
Internal Server Error
The server encountered an internal error and was unable to complete your request. Either the server is overloaded or there is an error in the application.
"They have helped me all season," added Hunter about his defensive mates. "I could not ask for a better group of guys in front of me."
Of note, Cherry Creek and Arapahoe played during the regular season, with the Warriors winning 9-7 on April 30. The championship game is scheduled for 4:30 pm Saturday at Sports Authority Field.
MaxPreps Colorado boys lacrosse state brackets