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High school lacrosse: Watertown Cyclones fall short against state-power West Genesee in sectional final

May 29—MANLIUS — The Watertown boys lacrosse team's historic season came to an end Wednesday at the hands of West Genesee.

Yet credit the Cyclones with a valiant effort against the Wildcats, a perennial power in Section 3 as well as the state.

Watertown made a charge in the second half to draw even, but West Genesee dominated in possession the rest of the way and pulled away to record a 16-7 victory in the Class B sectional final at Fayetteville-Manlius High School.

"We worked really hard to get here and fought hard, but they're just a really good team," Watertown senior Devin Connell said of West Genesee.

Nolan Bellotti and Charlie Lockwood each generated five goals and two assists to account for the bulk of the offense for the top-seeded Wildcats (15-3), who won their third consecutive Section 3 title.

"It is epic, absolutely, especially against a very good Watertown team," West Genesee coach Eric Burns said. "Their midfield is incredibly strong and their attack (Jack Rathbun) had a great, great game and he made things difficult for us."

The Cyclones (15-3), competing in their first sectional final in boys lacrosse, hung with West Genesee for much of the game.

With Watertown trailing 5-4 at halftime, Bellotti scored an unassisted goal 54 seconds into the second half to build a two-goal lead.

But the Cyclones responded with back-to-back goals to draw even at 6-6 on an unassisted tally from Rathbun and a goal from Owen O'Donnell, with Kage Loftus assisting, with 8 minutes and 43 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

"You know what, we were right there and we had it tied at six and then we just couldn't win a faceoff," Watertown coach Brian Navarra said. "We couldn't win a faceoff and I'm not down on our faceoff guy, he was busting his tail. We just couldn't get a loose ball or a ground ball and it's been the story in lot of big games.

"If you don't think that's what we're going to work on for the next nine months, you're crazy and we just told our guys that."

Sparked by Lockwood, the Wildcats generated a 5-0 surge to lead 11-6 heading into the final quarter, with Lockwood scoring four of the goals, including the go-ahead tally with 4:57 left in the third.

"I thought we had good momentum, Kage Loftus had some good plays, a few ground balls and a couple goals and got us back into it," Navarra said. "And we were feeling confident, but we got a little tired there in that third and fourth quarter and just couldn't get the ball on offense. It's as simple as that."

West Genesee then received a pair of goals from Bellotti and Nash Oudemool within a span of 64 seconds to cap a seven-goal run.

"You know, a couple of our guys were essentially saying 'enough is enough' and kind of took it into their own hands and played within our offense and put the team on their shoulders," Burns said. "Charlie Lockwood and Nolan Bellotti were phenomenal in that third quarter and that run, so that sincerely helped, of course."

Watertown responded with a goal from Nico Spaziani to briefly stem the tide, but would not score again.

"They have a lot of talent, they're really well coached and we are, too," Connell said. "We have amazing coaches that work hard, they just have amazing talent, more than us. They played really hard and deserved it."

Earlier, the Cyclones trailed 5-1 in the second quarter, but generated a three-goal spurt to close the first half and draw within one on pair of scores within 12 seconds from Loftus and a goal from Jack Adams with 3:02 to play in the half.

West Genesee also won the vital possession game by winning 16 of 27 faceoffs, including 13 from Ashton Fassinger and eight from Jonah Vormwald.

"It's kind of been our M.O., just not tough enough per se, physically and mentally to go get that ball like it's the most important thing on earth," Navarra said. "We played defense the entire second half. When we had the ball we thought we could score, but we didn't have the ball."

Loftus finished with two goals and an assist and Spaziani scored a pair of goals to lead Watertown, while O'Donnell and Adams each tallied a goal and an assist.

Freshman goalie Norman Cushman made 11 saves for the Cyclones.

"They have incredible heart, incredible heart," Burns said of Watertown. "Those three or four middies that they have are Division I caliber, they're a great team that is going to be just as strong next year."

Watertown reached the title game by defeating East-Syracuse Minoa, 12-10, on Saturday, to advance to a sectional final for the first time in the 60-year history of the program.

"It's certainly disappointing, and the boys, we should be disappointed," Navarra said. "It's disappointing that we didn't win and didn't play better, but certainly we're proud of these guys, we're happy for these seniors, it's one of the best senior classes we've had on and off the field. I told them to keep their head high and just be able to work."

He continued: "This is a stepping stone for the future and hopefully this is the first and not the last time we'll be here in the sectional finals," Navarra added. "I think there's a lot of good things to come we feel, the future still looks bright. From our youth (teams) all the way up, we're kind of happy where we're at, but we still need to get better."

"It was great year, I'm really happy with everybody," Connell said. "We played as a family, we stayed together, we were a team, which sometimes in the past wasn't always the deal. So I'm glad with how we played this year."