TAUNTON, Mass. -- It took nearly the full 80 minutes for him to get a chance, but when the ball fell to Silver Lake senior striker Paul Beatty in the box, he was ready to pounce.
Beatty scored with fewer than two minutes remaining and then added a game-winner in the second overtime to lead the top seeded Lakers to a dramatic 2-1 victory over Needham in the Division 1 South sectional final on Sunday night at Aleixo Stadium in Taunton.
The Rockets double-covered Beatty the entire game with Greg Evans marking him directly and captain Daniel Alpert giving cover behind him. The strategy worked for 78 minutes, as Beatty struggled to find room to run and went minutes at a time without even touching the ball.
Down by a goal late in the game, Silver Lake started to throw people forward and the strategy paid off in the final two minutes when the ball was not properly cleared by Needham and a cross was nodded into the path of Beatty by Pat Hutchinson. The senior settled the ball off his chest and slid his shot just past the sprawling Adam Lassman to make it 1-1.
Needham had looked very strong up until that point, but the Lakers carried the momentum into overtime. Three minutes into the second overtime, Alpert tried to head a pass back to Lassman only for Beatty to beat the keeper to the ball and fire a left-footed winner that sparked celebrations on the bench and in the stands.
Head coach Dan Correia knew that Beatty would come through eventually. He remarked, “Even though they contained him for the most part, you could tell that they were very conscious of every touch that he had. We felt it was a matter of time that we get him the ball in the right spot.”
Correia also commented on his team’s ability to persevere and battle to the end of the game. He noted, “We haven’t had to do it often, but it’s good to know that the guys are mentally tough and can do it.”
Needham head coach Don Brock, whose team had not lost since September of 2012, was disappointed with the final result, but proud that the Rockets had a strong season, despite losing eight starters from last year’s state championship team.
“The one with two minutes left, we had that game won if we didn’t let them score,” Brock said. “We just goofed a little bit, as kids will do, but I’m very proud of the way we played.”
He added, “It speaks volumes for the few seniors that we have back from last year and the program. It speaks volumes that we can reload like that and we’ll be back next year.”
It was a very even first half between the top two seeds in D1 South and two teams that had yet to lose this season.
Needham created a few chances down its right side with Matthew Brand playing in a cross that Marco O’Donnell tapped just wide. Junior captain Aram Ouligian also had a header flash wide on a corner and later had a shot deflect inches wide of the post. On the ensuing corner, Brendan Nemes almost put the ball into his own net but keeper Stephen McSwain was able to get his hands on it.
The Lakers best scoring opportunities came from set pieces, including a Beatty corner that had to be cleared off the line and then the rebound shot went narrowly wide.
Coming out of halftime, the Rockets took control of the game and began to dominate the midfield behind strong play from Ouligian and Jordan Angel. Five minutes into the second half, O’Donnell crossed from the left and Brand had a diving header saved by McSwain. It was a warning for the Lakers, but a minute later they were behind.
Ouligian drove forward into the box and sent in a low cross from the right that was tapped in by Hantzly Murat, who was able to get in front of his defender. The goal seemed to inspire the Rockets. Needham started flying all over the pitch and closing down Silver Lake as soon as it got possession.
Beatty was increasingly isolated and Correia looked for any answer to try and get back into the game, including moving the forward out to the left wing in hopes of getting him more touches.
Correia explained, “We shifted a lot of guys forward in the last 10 minutes. We went from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 to 3-4-3, whatever we had to do.”
Silver Lake thought that it had found the equalizer with six minutes remaining, but defender Tim Barrow (who also scored the winner against New Bedford) was ruled offside by the assistant referee.
Four minutes later, Beatty had his chance to keep the Lakers season alive.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about all season,” remarked Correia. “You can’t control the little things. If you go down a goal, who cares; just go out and get the next one.”
Silver Lake will take on north sectional champion Somerville in the state semifinal on Tuesday night at 7:15 p.m. at Taunton High.
D1 South Girls: Franklin 2, Bishop Feehan 1
Taylor Cogliano had a goal and an assist and freshman Meg Adams scored the winner with only two minutes remaining to lead Franklin to a 2-1 victory over Bishop Feehan in the D1 South final at Taunton High. It was the Panthers second consecutive sectional title and third in the past four years.
Head coach Tom Geysen reflected on how far the Panthers have come from the preseason to now.
He explained, “In the whole preseason we didn’t score a single goal. Three days before our first game, we scrapped the whole thing – offense, defense, everything. It’s just been a work in progress the whole time and they keep working on it.”
The Shamrocks took the lead in the 37th minute on a goal by leading scorer Maddie Jolin. A long throw was played into the box and Jolin was able to slide a tough angled shot past an onrushing Dani Lonati and inside the far post.
Lonati redeemed herself in the second half with a series of good saves that kept Franklin in the game. She slid to stop a Jolin breakaway and then another from Allie Luongo. She also tipped a hard shot over the crossbar. Those saves would turn out to be huge, as Franklin turned its possession into goals.
Cogliano blocked a Feehan clearance and beat the defender and the goalkeeper to the ball before picking out the top corner and making it 1-1. It was the fourth straight tournament game with a goal for the junior.
“Taylor has stepped up the last three games. Big players step up in big games and that’s what she’s done,” said Geysen.
With two minutes remaining, Cogliano read a bouncing ball and then out jumped a defender to flick a header into the path of Adams. The freshman was able to get a toe on the ball just ahead of the Feehan keeper and it rolled inside the post.
Geysen noted, “She’s going to do numerous things wrong because she’s young, but all of a sudden she’ll do something that makes you say, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ She makes people make mistakes and she has the ability to capitalize when she does.”
Franklin will face north sectional champion Newton North in the state semifinal on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Taunton High.