The Niskayuna boys lacrosse team won its fourth consecutive Section II, Class A title in a manner befitting its suspense-filled season.
The top-seeded Silver Warriors (21-0) broke open a close game with a 5-0 second-half run to defeat a stubborn Shaker squad 8-4 in last Friday's final at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
We've been playing in close games all year, said Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang. "The kids panic less than the coaches do."
The 10th-seeded Blue Bison (6-15) rallied from a 3-1 deficit with a pair of third quarter goals before the Silver Warriors pulled away for good.
"Today, there are no losers for us because people counted us out when we had a poor record in the regular season, and we proved them wrong," said Shaker coach Shawn Hennessey. "It was a dream that we had to wake up from today."
It looked like it was going to be tough for Niskayuna to score on Shaker goaltender Ken O'Connor after the sophomore made two point blank saves in the first four minutes. But, the Silver Warriors gradually found chinks in O'Connor's armor and took advantage of them to advance to Tuesday's regional against Section I champion Yorktown.
"We just had to find the back of the net," said Niskayuna midfielder Mark Panneton, who led the Silver Warriors with three goals. "Once we found our niche, we got into a groove."
Joe Shields got the Blue Bison on the board first when he stuffed a shot by Niskayuna goaltender James Manchester less than three minutes into the first quarter. The Silver Warriors responded two minutes later when Panneton capped a fast break with a shot over Ken O'Connor's shoulder to tie the game at 1.
Shaker kept the game tied at 1 by maintaining possession of the ball through much of the remaining 7:01 of the first quarter and the first seven minutes of the second quarter. But for as long as the Blue Bison held on to the ball, they couldn't generate many good scoring opportunities against a stingy Niskayuna defense that swarmed any ball carrier near the goal.