HINGHAM, Mass. -- It has become something of a tradition over the years that when Needham and Hingham match up in an early season lacrosse game, it ends up becoming an instant classic.
Since 2005, the Rockets and the Harbormen have met once a year with all but one of those contests was decided by three goals or less. Four of them were one-goal thrillers.
History repeated itself Saturday morning at Hingham High School, as Noah Ellis fired home the game-winner at 2:35 of overtime to lift the Harbormen to a 12-11 victory over Needham.
"I think it was a battle all the way," admitted a somewhat relieved Hingham coach John Todd afterward. "I think it was a one or two goal game, back and forth, both teams holding leads and we were just lucky enough to get a look at the cage in overtime. Good early season lacrosse."
Ellis finished with three goals and an assist for the Harbormen (3-0), David Freitas had five goals and a helper, and Kevin Blair had a game high seven points on four goals and three assists.
Mark Riley paced the Rockets (0-1) with four goals and two assists, Nico Panepinto added two goals with four assists and Robbie Pisano collected a hat trick.
The Rockets (0-1) tied the game when Panepinto set up Riley for a laser to the far post with just 23 seconds remaining in regulation. The Rockets then won the faceoff for overtime, but the Hingham (3-0) defense bottled up Riley as he tried to dodge through the lane.
With possession in hand following a timeout and another stoppage, Ellis worked himself into great position and let loose with what ended up as the game-winner.
"Kevin Morris set a good pick for me on the corner and my guy was kind of sagging in a little bit so I just split him to the middle," Ellis described. "Everyone was clearing out so I had a lane right to the net."
After a penalty-filled third quarter in which 10 flags were thrown (seven against the Harbormen), Freitas scored back to back goals, the second on a diving shot while getting hacked, to give Hingham an 11-10 lead with 3:09 to play. Panepinto rung one off the crossbar in a man-up a minute later, then Riley finally forced the extra frame with his tying goal.
"Our team has a lot of poise," Blair said. "It was pretty crazy and there was a lot of confusion with the referees and all the flags and stuff but we had a run, we kept it together."
In a year where expectations are high for both squads, the importance of the triumph was not minimized at all for the Harbormen.
"Its definitely big," Todd admitted. "We always battle these guys, every year it's a one or two goal game. That's why we play each other. We've got very high expectations for our kids and great respect for Needham. Having this game early in the season gives us a good benchmark of where we want to be and where we are."