NEWCASTLE — Whatever it was that Gardiner Area High School lacrosse coach K.C. Johnson said to his team at halftime on Thursday, it worked.
The Tigers exploded for five third-quarter goals to erase a halftime deficit and post an 11-4 win over Cony High School in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B game played at Clark Field on the campus of Lincoln Academy. Gardiner (2-0) held Cony (0-2) without a goal in the second half while outshooting their rivals by a 25-3 count over the final 24 minutes.
Junior midfielder Sloan Berthiaume scored five goals for Gardiner, while senior Tristan Hebert added a pair of goals and an assist and sophomore Tanner Hebert also scored twice.
The game marked the first meeting between the two since Gardiner stunned Cony in the Class B North quarterfinals last season.
“It was just adjustments and focus,” Johnson said. “We switched up our formation a couple of times, just to see what they had. The key with my guys is we’re supposed to move the ball and break them down and see where the weaknesses are on defense. We weren’t doing that (in the first half).”
The Tigers certainly did it in the second half, however. The swift turnaround was a product of Gardiner’s ability to be more patient in its offensive sets while also remaining opportunistic in transition.
Gardiner’s third goal in the first eight minutes of the third quarter came courtesy of Tristan Hebert, his second goal of the quarter, off a long spell of possession capped by Hebert’s skipping drive off the Clark Field turf.
Just 19 seconds later, Berthiaume won a faceoff at midfield, curled away from a defender and — cutting right through the heart of the Rams’ defense — scored his fourth of the day to build a 7-4 lead.
“We came out to play,” Berthiaume said of the big third quarter. “We were definitely slow in the beginning. We weren’t that focused. We adjusted.”
Gardiner’s ability to string together passes and wait on the best looks at goal paid off with the scoring binge. Where the Tigers had been jumpy and inefficient in the first half — throwing balls away on errant passes and being late to ground balls — they were extremely effective in their attack and in their transition after halftime.
Cony coach Chad Foye wasn’t surprised, even after taking a 4-3 lead into halftime, courtesy of two goals in the final 1:15 of the second period.
“They stepped it up a notch and we just didn’t,” Foye said. “We stepped back, they stepped up. They controlled the play, they controlled the ball and we just couldn’t get it away from them. When we did, we turned it back over to them.”
Senior middie Nate Foye scored twice for the Rams, his second coming with 1:01 left in the half, just 14 seconds after Dalton Bowie had knotted the game at 3-3. Nick Robinson also scored for Cony.
Unfortunately for Cony, it was not a sign of things to come. Gardiner won 15 of 17 faceoffs in the game, with Berthiaume and Garrett Hinkley dominant in that phase of the game, and the Tigers were dogged in their pursuit of the Rams in their midfield transition.
After a back and forth first half, it made for an easy and efficient second half for Gardiner.
“We look for that one more pass, we look for the movement of the ball, and we weren’t really very good at it early on,” Johnson said. “All of a sudden, we’re in a dogfight… It was a better second half.”
Junior goalie Noah Keene made seven saves for Gardiner, while Ram counterpart Cam Gallant stopped 15 shots.
Parker Hinkley and Davis Bilou added goals for the Tigers.
Travis Barrett — 621-5621