Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 22
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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HEAT STROKE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse senior star Allen Bryant heads to goal last Wednesday against Mendham in the Group II state championship game at Ridge High. Bryant scored a team-high three goals but it wasn’t enough as top-seeded PHS wilted in the 90-degree heat, squandering an early 3-0 lead in a 7-6 loss to No. 7 Mendham. .

PHS Boys’ Lax Misfires in State Title Game; As It Drops 7-6 Heartbreaker to Mendham

Bill Alden

The heat was on last Wednesday evening as the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team battled Mendham in the Group II state championship game at Ridge High.

With temperatures soaring into the 90s, the field turf stadium felt like a blast furnace.

In the early going, top-seeded PHS was as hot as the weather, jumping out to a 3-0 lead, looking like it was going to run seventh-seeded Mendham off the field.

“We try to focus on the first five minutes and we felt like once that was over, we were doing well,” said PHS senior star midfielder Allen Bryant. “It was ours for the taking.”

But the run-and-gun Little Tigers started wilting in the heat, looking winded and missing shots as the grind-it-out Mendham team took control of the game’s tempo.

The Minutemen outscored PHS 4-1 over the rest of the first half, leaving the teams in a 4-4 stalemate at intermission.

PHS head coach Peter Stanton had the sense that his high octane team was getting gassed by the sweltering conditions.

“Obviously both teams had to play in the heat but if you want to push the ball and play an up-tempo style, it is harder to do that in the heat,” said Stanton.

“If you want to play a slow-it-down, grind-it-out style, you can do that in the hot weather.”

After the break, the teams each scored twice in the third quarter, setting up a nailbiting finish.

Mendham forged ahead with 7:09 remaining in regulation but PHS didn’t back down.

Making several forays into the attack area, PHS unloaded a volley of shots on Mendham goalie Tyler Avallone.

Bryant and his twin brother, Doug, both had opportunities in the waning moments but PHS never found the back of the net as they suffered an agonizing 7-6 loss to end the season at 17-5.

In the wake of the setback, some PHS players fell to the turf in disbelief, clutching their heads and crying. Others pounded their sticks into the turf in anger.

The players were inconsolable for minutes after the game as they came to grips with the finality of the result and the realization of how close they had come to the program’s first-ever state title.

With sweat running down his face mixed with bits of rubber from the field, a red-eyed Bryant summed up the disappointment felt by the Little Tiger players.

“It is so heartbreaking; we have been playing together for so long,” said the Vanderbilt-bound Bryant, who ended the day with a team-high three goals.

“We just know each other so well. We thought this was the year. We were so close as a team and as friends. It is just heartbreaking to see it end like this.”

PHS head coach Stanton was sad to see his corps of seniors fall just short of their goal of a state crown.

“They really came a long way,” said Stanton, referring to his group of seniors which included Mike Olentine, Joe Sandford, Brian Vieten in addition to the Bryant twins.

“When we were looking at those guys a couple of years ago, we were thinking these guys could be really, really good players. They managed to meet our expectations.”

Stanton acknowledged that the Little Tigers didn’t play up to expectations offensively in the loss to Mendham.

“We didn’t throw the ball into the goal when we had the chances,” lamented Stanton. “It was just guys missing shots that they needed to make.”

While Stanton was disappointed with the offensive execution, he knew it wasn’t for lack of trying.

“Our guys made the best effort that they could make,” asserted Stanton. “It is the first Princeton High team to ever make it to the finals of the state tournament. We managed to get about 80 percent of our goals. We missed a few of the big ones but we were close to all of them. We can be proud that we did our best to achieve all our goals.”

Bryant, for his part, will remember with pride the effort that the Little Tigers displayed this spring from the beginning to the end.

“Looking back on it, I am really proud of my teammates,” said Bryant, managing to smile.

“It was a great, great year all around. To get 17 wins, that is just extraordinary; it ties a Princeton High record. I am just so proud of these guys. We worked so hard. There were a lot of one-goal games in the beginning but we worked hard throughout. Even in this game, we never stopped trying our hardest.”

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