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Apollos upset Pacers 14-12 to earn title shot

Sunset starts fast and uses that edge to oust Lakeridge on June 1
by: Vern Uyetake IN THE SEMI — Sunset’s Anthony Novoa works to control the ball while being hounded by a Lakeridge defender in his team’s win over the Pacers.

OREGON CITY - First impressions mean everything.

And the Sunset boys lacrosse team made a lasting first impression on Lakeridge last week, racing out to a 9-1 first-half lead and using that edge to power its 14-12 victory over the Pacers in the OHSLA state semifinals at Pioneer Stadium.

For Sunset, the second-place team from the Metro League, the win lifted the Apollos' season record to 17-6 and sent the team into the state title game for the second straight year.

Lakeridge, meanwhile, the Three Rivers League champion, saw its season end at 18-5.

In that critical first half, Sunset's defense forced the Pacers into a bundle of turnovers, and the Apollos controlled possession and scored seemingly at will.

Sunset was firmly in control by the end of the first quarter, with Nathaniel Berry's goal in the final moments making it 5-0.

And Sunset didn't let up there, either.

In the second period, Anthony Novoa bounced home a shot to make it 6-0 before Blake Dutton finally got Lakeridge on the board three minutes into that second frame.

But Sunset got another goal from Novoa, and two more from Curtis Eschman to boost its advantage to 9-1, the team's largest lead of the game.

Lakeridge also struggled to contain Sunset midfielder Kyler Bruno, who was dominant in the first half.

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

Thirty seconds later, David Swanson scored from long range to cut Sunset's lead to 9-3 at the half.

A late penalty on Sunset also gave Lakeridge a man-up advantage to start the second half, and Lakeridge took advantage of that 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. And Novoa would score again for the Apollos on a man-up opportunity for his team to make it 11-4.

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

Dutton notched 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 the deficit at 12-8 game with 12 minutes left to play.

Lakeridge upped its pressure on the Apollos in the remaining minutes, and Sunset seemed unsure if it should continue attacking 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 scores from Clayton and Swanson brought the Pacers within 12-11 with 4:39 to play.

The Apollos responded there, however, 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, but Apollo keeper Collin 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, and another turnover with less than two minutes to play sealed the Pacers' fate.

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.

For Sunset, the victory avenged a 6-5 loss to the Pacers back on March 30, and gave the Pacers just their second loss to an Oregon opponent this season.

- Matt Sherman contributed to this report.