O'Neill OT Game-Winner Lifts Wahconah to State Title Game

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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DUDLEY, Mass. – In a game of wild momentum swings, Billy O’Neill took the biggest swing of the day and, perhaps, his lacrosse career.
With 2 minutes, 37 seconds left in overtime, O’Neill took a pass from Jonah Smith about 10 yards from the goal and slung a low line drive shot into the net to give the Wahconah boys lacrosse team  13-12 win over Cohasset in the semi-finals of the Division 4 State Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
O’Neill scored five goals – all in the fourth quarter or overtime – as Wahconah rallied from a 10-6 deficit to earn a spot in Wednesday’s State Championship game at Worcester State University.
In the immediate aftermath, he said he could not imagine a moment like it.
“That’s something … that’s why I go to practice every day,” O’Neill said. “That’s why you play your heart out every game, for moments like that.
“This means everything. You go to practice every day for this. We’re family. This means so much to us.”
Third-seeded Wahconah (21-1) charged out of the gates with five goals in the first 10 minutes to take a 5-0 lead at Shepherd Hill Regional.
Devin Lampron had three of those goals, including the game’s first, converting a feed from Rylan Padelford in transition.
Padelford and Smith each scored a goal during the opening run, which ended when Lampron completed his hat trick with an assist from Caden Padelford.
Second-seeded Cohasset was able to convert a chance with 2 seconds left in the first quarter, but Wahconah quickly re-established the five-goal margin when Lampron scored his fourth of the day with an assist from O’Neill to open the second stanza.
Then, things went south in a hurry for Wahconah as the Skippers scored eight straight goals to close the half and take a 9-6 lead into the break.
A big key in the comeback was Cohasset’s Henry Burke, who dominated the faceoff spot, winning nine of 10 chances in the period.
There were just two faceoffs in the entire third quarter as the Skippers took the air out of the ball, patiently working it around the perimeter and burning the clock to protect their three-goal margin.
Cohasset scored the only goal of the quarter with 55 seconds on the clock when Liam Appleton went top shelf to beat Wahconah’s Joe Massaro (seven saves).
Wahconah scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter to cut that four-goal deficit in half when Skye Patti scored in transition to make it 10-8 with 6:48 left in regulation.
Aidan Westphalen (four goals) answered at the other end for the Skippers, but Wahconah’s O’Neill scored the next three goals to tie it.
“We made a couple of adjustments defensively and a couple of offensive adjustments,” he said of the difference in the fourth quarter comeback. “We found the matchups. Hit the back of the net.”
Another key was improved play from Noah Poirier on faceoffs. He prevailed on six of eight opportunities in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
His fourth goal of the game came with an assist from Caden Padelford (three assists) to make it 11-11 in the 46th minute of play.
Wahconah appeared to take the lead moments later but had a goal waved off on a crease violation with 1:55 on the clock.
With 1:38 remaining, Massaro made a save on a Cohasset transition opportunity to keep the game tied. But the Skippers’ Charlie Donovan found the net on a bounce shot with 49 seconds left to give Cohasset a 12-11 lead.
With 33 seconds left, Cohasset turned over the ball, and Wahconah called timeout with 25 seconds left to set up a game-tying goal.
It came from Smith, who took a pass from Rylan Padelford about 10 yards from the goal, beat two defenders and fired a bounce shot past Cohasset keeper Anthony Kulturides to tie the game and force OT.
On Wednesday, Wahconah, which outscored opponents 65-12 in the first three rounds of the state tournament, will face either No. 1 Sandwich or No. 5 Dover-Sherborn in a bid for the program’s first state championship.
Wahconah will do so knowing that it has the heart to face adversity.
“It was a battle,” Billy O’Neill said. “Being down by four, you have to give everything you’ve got.”
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