Keegan Smith knew he wasn’t the fastest player on the Gardiner boys lacrosse team so he relied on other skills that made him one of the more dominant attackers in central Maine.
“I see the field really well,” he said. “I can react before a defense reacts. I can break a defense down. I can bait guys and then go at them. I try to use my stick skills and get open. It seemed to work.”
Did it ever.
Smith scored a team-high 83 points to help Gardiner win its second straight Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship.
For his accomplishments this season, Smith is the Kennebec Journal Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year. Teammate Josh Caldwell and Jesse Evans of Maranacook were also considered.
The Tigers went undefeated in the regular season and advanced to the Eastern B championship game, which they lost 15-3 to Yarmouth.
Along the way, it was Smith who guided what was a potent offense.
“Keegan has great skill,” Gardiner coach KC Johnson said.
“He’s sneaky deceptive. He’s hard to catch and it can make a defense angry. He’s just very versatile. He had the ability to slow the game down to what we wanted it this year. He just developed into a nice player. He loves the sport. He’s crafty and he’s fearless.
“I knew he’d up some numbers this year, but I didn’t think he’d put up as many helpers as he did. We always wondered if his lack of speed would affect him, but it never did.”
Smith finished with 35 goals and a team-high 48 assists. He also had 42 groundballs and became a quasi-coach on the field, as well.
Entrusted with the offense, Smith often set the offense after reading the defense, much like a quarterback calling plays on a football field.
“He’d bring things up and tell us what wasn’t working and he could call things on the fly,” Johnson said. “He was able to pick and choose what offense we were in. There were plenty of times we were supposed to be running a play and he was supposed to be going to point B but the defense read it. So he quickly changed on the fly and was able to get to point C. He was that type of player.”
It’s been a steady process for Smith as he developed into more of a complete player. While he’s always had the ability to score, this season he found his teammates more.
“I tried to be a playmaker and tried to open things up for my teammates,” Smith said. “I just got to know where people would be. They made it easy because they would get open and I love giving them the ball. We all just got used to each other.”
Senior captain midfielder Seth Wing said Smith played with more confidence this season.
“Keegan had a great season,” he said.
“When everyone was looking for goals he either did it or passed the ball to someone who did. He stepped up in a huge way. He was just so confident that he could make the passes this year and not lose the ball as much. Yeah, he definitely wanted to pass this year and it showed.”
Smith will attend the University of Southern Maine in the fall, where he’ll play lacrosse.
Bill Stewart — 621-5640