FORT MILL — Fort Mill led 47 minutes and 44 seconds of its boys’ lacrosse match against visiting Charlotte Latin on Thursday night.
But Latin led the most important 16 seconds of the game, the last 16. Jackson Monnin fed a cutting Hunter Sheridan, who scored to give the Hawks a 12-11 lead, and they held on as Fort Mill’s Mitch Russell couldn’t get a shot off in the last seconds of a riveting game.
“Fortunately we were able to put it together there at the end,” said Latin coach Dick Sipperly. “We struggled a little bit defensively, but as a team we were able to come together and come up with the win … somehow.”
Fort Mill was left to rue a fourth quarter in which it coughed up a 10-6 lead. The Yellow Jackets were alternately proud of having bossed a game with one of North Carolina’s best private schools, but also downhearted to not come away with a win. That feeling didn’t take a day or two to set in, either.
“I think they’re already thinking about it,” said Stephen Nadolski, the Jackets’ coach. “I’m most proud that they believe in themselves and that the effort is there. That’s the reason we play those games is to learn.”
Latin (6-0), North Carolina’s defending private school state champs, entered the game ranked No. 2 in NCISAA by LaxPower.com, while the same site listed Fort Mill (6-3) as South Carolina’s No. 1 team. Latin junior attackman Carson Song received glaring defensive attention from Fort Mill, no surprise considering he produced more than 100 points last season as an All-State 10th grader. Song was slowed in the first half Thursday but finished with six goals, three of those coming in the fourth quarter when the Hawks overturned the four-goal deficit.
Mitch Russell, who scored three goals and assisted six more in a virtuoso performance for the Yellow Jackets, dumped off to Tyler Lozinski for one of his five goals, this one with 11 minutes, 4 seconds left to push the hosts’ lead to 10-6. From there, Latin scored six of the game’s final seven goals. Song, Sheridan and Owen Armstrong bulged the net over the span of four minutes to cut the Yellow Jacket lead to 10-9. Lozinski then pinged a shot off the crossbar with about five minutes left to play, and less than a minute later, Song’s goal tied the score at 10 all with 4 minutes, 9 seconds left.
Russell, who is committed to Duke, answered the call. He charged the goal from X, the nickname for the area directly behind the goal, and plunged into the goalmouth to score unassisted and put Fort Mill back in front 11-10 with 2 minutes, 37 seconds to play. Russell’s Superman finish was no surprise to the Latin coach.
“Mitch Russell is a heck of a player. It’s fun to watch him play,” said Sipperly, who has coached Russell in club ball. “I know him well.”
But Latin kept coming.
With Russell consistently winning faceoffs and possession for Fort Mill, Sipperly put a longpole on the faceoff and the Hawks started to shift the momentum of the game by breaking up Russell’s domination in the center circle. That was a critical adjustment in a game with two teams that could keep the ball so adeptly.
“I think lacrosse is a game of runs and it’s one of those things where, when the energy is positive for either team, it works,” said Nadolski.
It wasn’t working in his team’s favor late Thursday night. With about 40 seconds left, Song wriggled free of the Yellow Jacket defenders and stuck a bounced shot into the back of the net to tie the game. That left enough time for Sheridan to score with 16 seconds left to put Latin in front.
Fort Mill still had one final shot after Russell won yet another faceoff. He raced into the Latin end and Nadolski called timeout with 7.7 seconds left. But Russell was unable to get off a shot out of the timeout and the Hawks bounded onto the field to celebrate an unlikely-looking victory.
Charlotte Latin 12, Fort Mill 11
CL: Carson Song 6, Owen Armstrong 3, Jackson Monnin 1, Hunter Sheridan 2; FM: Mitch Russell 3, Tyler Lozinski 5, Ethan Gray 3.
Records: Charlotte Latin 6-0; Fort Mill 6-3.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T