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MI conquered by Spartans
It wasn’t the way they envisioned walking off the field at Memorial Stadium. Watching the Bainbridge Island boys lacrosse players in a pig pile at the 50-yard line. Spartan fans cheering and screaming in glee.
The Islanders cleared the field quickly following the intense state championship game, walking back to the locker rooms and giving their arch rivals a chance to revel in a 9-7 win. After all, it was a moment that only the Islanders had felt the three previous seasons.
“I knew that we could play with them,” said Mercer Island coach Ian O’Hearn. “They are a great team, but I was upset that we didn’t have more time of possession.”
Bainbridge dominated the time of possession and used it to pepper Mercer Island goalkeeper Adam Bowen for 36 shots-on-goal. In comparison, the Islanders only had 13 shots-on-goal, making more than half count for points.
“He was unconscious,” said O’Hearn. “It was his best game all year.”
Bowen’s play was emphasized the most during the opening minutes of the second half, as Bainbridge took four consecutive shots and all were turned away. But the fifth attempt found the back of the Islander net. The Islanders on the other hand took their first second half shot-on-goal 7:30 minutes into the period.
“I was just watching sticks and watching the ball,” said Bowen, who had 16 saves during the game. “Our entire defense was new coming into the season, and we have had a huge improvement.”
Bainbridge went on the attack from the opening whistle, scoring the first goal of the game in the first 10 seconds. Islander senior Greg Mahony ran from midfield and struck back with an unassisted shot that none of the Spartans could stop. Mahony’s direct sprints from 30 or more yards out became a regular way for Mercer Island to score. Mahony’s four goals led all scorers during the game.
The Islanders took their only lead of the game when Taylor Dawson charged from behind the Spartans goal, wrapping his stick around the post and depositing the ball into the net for the 2-1 lead. The game was tied 4-4 at the half due to two unassisted goals by Mahony, the last goal being initialized by a dead sprint of 80 yards following a Spartan miss.
“When we went and played those teams in California, we learned how to stay close and give ourselves and chance to win against a tough team,” said Mahony. “We were able to finish opportunities tonight, but we didn’t get enough opportunities.”
Mercer Island overcame a two-goal deficit during the third period thanks to a wrap around goal by Mike Choe and Mahony’s final score of the game. But a Bainbridge Island surge to start the fourth period was too much for the Islanders to overcome.
The nine goals by Bainbridge was a far cry from the 15 scored during the two team’s first meeting of the year. Mercer Island trailed most of that game, at home, by four or five goals, losing 15-10.
“It just took experience,” said O’Hearn. “That was 20 games ago and the experience showed tonight.”
The Islanders earned the right to play in the state finals with a 10-8 victory over Bellevue Wednesday at Islander Stadium.
But the feeling of walking off the field for the final time in an Islander uniform for players such as Mahony, Tim Wettack, Matt Wright, Dawson, A.J. Ellis, Steven Frankel, Josh Swartz, Will Stoney and Nathan Wong, was not easy.
“I am friends with every player on this team,” said Mahony. “We practice four hours a day together and take trips together. I will miss it.”