STRATFORD -- Officially, Bethel's 12-11 boys lacrosse triumph over Pomperaug Thursday meant the victorious Wildcats were merely the winners of the first-year SWC Division II Tournament.
To the two teams involved, however, it meant so much more.
"This absolutely meant a lot more to all of us," Bethel coach Keith Marotta said after Brian Crosby's goal with 48 seconds remaining broke an 11-all tie. "Pomperaug is our arch-rival and there is no better way to win a championship than this."
Bethel (12-6) appeared to be in trouble early in the fourth quarter as Pomperaug (9-9) turned an 8-6 deficit into an 11-8 lead with eight minutes remaining. But Frank Magrone scored three consecutive goals to tie it with 1:51 remaining, before Crosby knocked in a rebound 63 seconds later.
"Frank is great at the attack position and he really stepped up big for us," Marotta said.
Magrone, who ended up with four goals and three assists, ran out from behind the net and fired the ball past Pomperaug goalie Spencer Freund from a difficult angle to tie it. Crosby's game-winner came after one of Freund's 16 saves in the game.
Despite the loss, Pomperaug coach Chris Grassi and his team were also proud to have been a part of a game that was played with the kind of intensity usually reserved for a state final.
"This game really meant a lot to us," Grassi said. "These are two up and coming teams in the SWC who are fighting for respect. Both teams represented themselves great today. You can't ask for a better game."
Henry Archie led Pomperaug with four goals. Peter Cimmino had three and Francis Thorpe had two. Michael Berlant and Nick DeFelice also scored for the Panthers.
Pomperaug had an early 5-2 lead before Bethel, which defeated the Panthers 14-4 during the regular season, took charge. The Wildcats outscored Pomperaug 6-1 to take an 8-6 lead early in the third quarter before the momentum changed again and Pomperaug led 11-8. Then it was all Bethel.
"Pomperaug came out with heart and outhustled us in the third quarter," Marotta said. "But before the fourth quarter I told the kids it's up to you now. How badly do you want it?"
BETHEL 12, POMPERAUG 11
POMPERAUG 2 4 4 1 -- 11
BETHEL 1 6 1 4 -- 12
Records: Pomperaug 9-9, Bethel 12-6.
Scoring: P--Henry Archie 4g; Peter Cimmino 3g; Francis Thorpe 2g, 2a; Michael Berlant 1g, 1a; Nick DeFelice 1g; Dylan McAllister 3a; Paul Zaloumis 2a. B--Frank Magrone 4g,. 3a; Troy Deyo 4g; Brian Crosby 2g; Joe Piatnik 1g; James Giannone 1g, 1a. Goalies: P--Spencer Freund (16 saves); B--Ryan Campbell (6 saves).