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Devastating dart: SJCP girls lax falls to Gerstell on goal with one-tenth of a second left on the clock

BUCKEYSTOWN — Rarely do games come down to the final tenth of a second, but that’s the situation St. John’s Catholic Prep and Gerstell Academy girls lacrosse found themselves in Friday afternoon.

The Vikings had been whistled for a shooting space violation mere ticks before the buzzer sounded in a tie game that would’ve sent the teams to overtime. So, the Falcons’ Cambrie Franks lined up eight meters from SJCP goalie Sabrina Eaton, with everyone in the stadium knowing she was about to unleash a shot as fast as she could to sneak it in before time ran out.

Franks wound her stick, and when the whistle sounded, she fired a dart into the net with 0.1 seconds remaining. That gave Gerstell a crucial 10-9 road win, which ensured the Vikings would be the No. 2 seed in the IAAM B Conference tournament as the Falcons earned the top overall seed.

“Good games come down to one play,” SJCP coach Brett Ponchione said.

Yet, this one was particularly devastating for the Vikings, especially given the preceding sequence.

SJCP sharpshooter Addison Scanlon earned her own free position shot with 18 seconds left, setting up the one-on-one she wanted with Gerstell goalie Ava Galdamez Reed. Scanlon stepped up and fired a strong shot, but Reed got her stick on it, deflecting it into the corner.

There, lurking Falcons scooped the ground ball and hurried down the field with time ticking away. In two passes and less than 15 seconds, Franks got the ball and took it across the middle of the field, attempting the last-ditch shot that earned her a free position.

“We set up our girls to get a nice fast break. They knew where their transition was [going] to be able to push it to the cage,” Falcons coach David Kennedy said. “We were either gonna get a shot or a free position, and it worked out.”

That transition game bothered SJCP in its previous meeting with Gerstell, another close 11-9 loss on April 10.

The Vikings (11-5) did a better job at handling it Friday, and they turned in a stronger overall defensive effort, too. But the Falcons (10-4) broke SJCP down on that final sequence, which is something Ponchione is confident his team will adjust to as the regular season winds down.

“It’s nothing magical. It’s easy to talk about, it’s easy to practice, but until you do it under live fire in a game situation, you’re gonna react differently,” Ponchione said of the final sequence. “This was a great experience for us today.”

It was also great experience for Eaton, the Vikings’ sophomore goalie who made several clutch saves in the second half to keep the Falcons off the board.

She finished with 12 stops and kept SJCP tied or ahead until that final shot — even as the Vikings went the game’s final 13 minutes, 28 seconds without scoring.

“She doesn’t shy away from anything, and she plays like an upperclassman, and she welcomes the pressure, she welcomes the free positions, so she’s a natural leader of our defense,” Ponchione said.

But Gerstell got the final mark as Franks earned the free position goal in the final tenth of a second.

“Can’t expect [Eaton] to make those kind of saves,” Ponchione said. “Hats off to them. They hang tough, and we’re super proud of our girls. This is a situation we don’t get to experience often.”

NOTES: Kaylee Storm had a hat trick for SJCP, adding an assist. Kristina Hindle scored twice. Scanlon, Maya Graham and Rylan Piccolo each had a goal and an assist. Payson Walker also scored. Grace Galanis had six draw controls. Sara Fenwick notched a hat trick for Gerstell.