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Pacer boys lacrosse falls in heartbreaker to Sunset in Final 4

by: VERN UYETAKE Above, Michael Hoch absorbs a hit from a Sunset defender as he makes a move to the goal in the Pacers’ semifinal game last week. Below, Blake Dutton keeps his balance against Sunset’s Luke Vroman. Dutton had a team-high five goals in the loss.

The Lakeridge boys lacrosse team had Sunset on its heels for the entirety of the second half but, in the end, the Pacers couldn't recover from a disastrous first 20 minutes of play, falling to Sunset in the semifinals 14-12 last week.

Had the game been five minutes longer, it's likely that Lakeridge would have at least forced overtime if not won the game outright as the Pacers' momentum had Sunset rattled but the Apollos' early lead was simply too much to overcome.

Lakeridge's first half was almost mystifying at times to anyone who had watched the Pacers play this year.

The team had a season's worth of turnovers and the Apollos controlled possession and scored practically at will.

Sunset was firmly in control by the end of the first quarter. Nathaniel Berry's goal in the final moments of the opening period made it 5-0 and Sunset didn't let up.

Anthony Novoa's bounce shot made it 6-0 before Blake Dutton finally got Lakeridge on the board three minutes into the second period.

Sunset got another goal from Novoa and two from Curtis Eschman to boost its advantage to 9-1, which would be its largest lead of the game.

"It wasn't like watching Lakeridge lacrosse. It's hard to know what to pin it on. We'd had good practices. I think it had to be a combination of nerves and pressure," coach Curt Sheinin said.

Lakeridge also struggled to contain Sunset's face-off man Kyler Bruno who was dominant in the first half.

The Pacers started to show some life in the closing minutes of the half. Dutton scored again on a terrific individual effort with 1:33 left. Dutton was one of the team's few bright spots in the first two quarters.

"It's hard to describe what Blake meant to us in that game. He tried to pick the team up and put it on his back," Sheinin said.

Thirty seconds later, David Swanson scored from long range to make it 9-3 at the half. A late penalty on Sunset also gave Lakeridge a man-up advantage to start the second half.

"I told the kids I wasn't giving up on them and to not give up on themselves," Sheinin said.

Lakeridge took advantage of the opportunity when Berto Cristobal scored on a pass from Johnny Clayton just 20 seconds into the third quarter.

But Sunset would answer quickly, getting a goal from Stephen Lutz just 13 seconds later.

Novoa would score again for the Apollos on a man-up opportunity to make it 11-4.

With its back against the wall, Lakeridge would respond with three unanswered goals by Dutton, Cristobal and Michael Hoch.

Dutton would notch his fourth goal of the game with 3:30 to play in the third quarter and Lakeridge goalie David Salamie had a pair of terrific saves in the final minutes of the period to keep it a 12-8 game with 12 minutes to play.

"All of a sudden we were headed in the right direction. Lacrosse is such a game of momentum and you could just see it," Sheinin said.

Salamie and Sunset's Collin Peters would each make solid saves early in the fourth quarter.

Lakeridge upped its pressure on the Apollos and Sunset seemed unsure if it should continue attacking the net or if it should try and milk the clock.

Another goal by Dutton with 7:30 to play made it a three-goal game and goals from Clayton and Swanson made it 12-11 with 4:39 left, forcing Sunset to call time-out.

The Apollos responded as Bruno won the ensuing draw and punctuated a nice run with a difficult bounce shot.

Lakeridge continued to play aggressive defense and made it difficult for Sunset to maintain possession for long periods of time.

And Peters stymied the Pacers more than once in the final minutes as Lakeridge looked to complete its comeback.

Hoch scored his second goal of the game with 2:26 remaining, cutting the lead to 13-12 and, when Lakeridge won the next face-off, it appeared that the Pacers were in good shape.

But Lakeridge turned the ball over shortly after winning it. Sunset would go on the attack again and Salamie came up with a huge stop.

However, the Pacers committed another turnover with less than two minutes to play.

With 1:19 left on the clock, Eschman put in a well-placed shot from close range to put a serious damper on the Pacers' chances.

Lakeridge would get the ball back but a shot by Dutton would sail wide and another by Clayton was deflected and Sunset held on.

It was a disappointing finish to Lakeridge's season to say the least as the Pacers were favorites heading into the semifinal game, having beaten Sunset earlier in the year.

Lakeridge had just one loss to an Oregon opponent heading into the game and won another league title. It will graduate 11 seniors from this year's team.

"We have a lot of big holes to fill but I think we'll be able to reload," Sheinin said.