Thirty seconds in, it was 6-4, and the mood was improving. Eleven seconds later, it was 6-5, and they felt the flow of the game shifting.
With 8:12 remaining in the third quarter, the Lambert boys lacrosse team had Wednesday’s state semifinal matchup against Centennial tied at 6-6, filling in the 6-2 hole in which the Longhorns had found themselves in the second quarter.
And just over a minute after that, it was 8-6, and the hesitant energy on Lambert’s sideline exploded into a mosh pit that spilled onto the field. The Longhorns would reel off four more goals without a response from the Knights, capping a run of 10 unanswered goals that led to a 12-7 win, putting Lambert (20-1) in the state finals.
“To do it against this team on this field for the second time this year, that’s what I’m proud about,” Longhorns director of lacrosse Rich Wehman said.
It was a dizzying turnaround from the Longhorns’ balky start to the game. Lambert got the first goal of the game, from Kyle Lewis in the fourth minute, but Centennial reeled off five straight after that, including three in one minute. Maryland commit Ryan Siracusa and UNC commit Nicky Solomon got hot shooting the ball for Centennial, contributing four goals each, and Lambert couldn’t keep the ball enough to break the Knights’ rhythm.
A goal from Alex Walker four seconds before halftime gave the Longhorns a lift and put the score at 6-3. And while Lambert has just one loss on the year, to national power Calvert Hall of Baltimore, the team wasn’t unfamiliar with having to work back from a deficit.
In fact, they had done it the game before, against Pope in the state quarterfinals. Lambert trailed 6-4 at halftime in that game before reeling off an 8-1 run in the second half, eventually winning 12-9.
“At halftime, the coaches were saying, ‘If we can just get the ball, we can score on these guys,’” Wehman said.
That was a prophetic observation, because Lambert’s run on Wednesday started with Phillip White on face-offs. The margin between him and the Knights’ Luke Said ended almost even, with the Longhorns winning 12 face-offs to Centennial’s 11, but White was almost unstoppable in the second half.
The Longhorns struggled to disrupt Centennial’s offense in the first half, but after the break, Lambert scarcely let the Knights get it in their half. Lambert finished with 29 ground balls to Centennial’s 14 and 40 shots to the Knights’ 24.
And when they could run the offense, Lambert took a more methodical approach than in the first half, breaking down Centennial goalkeeper Eric Cecere, a Siena commit, with shots low and to the corners.
“We just started making more than one pass and going to goal,” said junior attack Kyle Lewis, who led Lambert with four goals. “(We were) making four or five passes and really giving us open shots.”
The win set up a championship game rematch with Lassiter, who Lambert beat in 2016 to seal an undefeated season. The Longhorns and Trojans are set to play at Lakewood Stadium at 5 p.m. on Saturday.