GARDINER — Gardiner overcame the loss of leading scorer Keegan Smith early in the second half and may have played even better after he left.

The Tigers scored four goals in the pivotal third quarter and went on to beat rival Maranacook/Winthrop 13-9 in the semifinal round of the Eastern Maine Class B lacrosse tournament.

Smith stepped in a pothole as he collided with another player and turned his ankle early in the third period, finishing the game on crutches.

“I was going to try to play,” Smith said. “I couldn’t even take a step on it.”

Smith’s services will be needed when the top-seeded Tigers (14-0) host the winner of today’s game between Yarmouth and North Yarmouth Academy in the regional final Wednesday. Maranacook/Winthrop finished at 11-3, with all three losses coming to Gardiner, four if you include the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship game.

“It gets harder every time,” said Gardiner senior Dalton Sargent, who scored two goals. “We’ve played them twice into overtime and this game they came out ready to play.”

The Tigers jumped to a 6-2 lead early in the second quarter, getting a pair of goals from Smith and Austin Moore and single goals from Sargent and Jake Truman. The Hawks roared back to tie the score at 6 as Dan Condon scored twice and Logan Emery and Zach Glazier once apiece.

“It’s a three-year program,” Gardiner coach KC Johnson said of the Hawks. “They’ve done great to come to the level they have.”

Josh Caldwell’s goal gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead at the half and Gardiner continued its momentum after Smith went down less than four minutes into the third quarter. Smith was less than 100 percent before his injury.

“We came into this game knowing Keegan wasn’t feeling well,” Sargent said. “Last game we played these guys he got hit pretty hard . . . so we’re trying to deal with it and do what we can without him.”

Senior Seth Wing, playing his first game after suffering a broken jaw against Oak Hill on April 30, scored for the Tigers to make it 8-6. Alex Nadeau, Moore and Sargent followed with goals, interrupted on by a score from Glazier, as the Tigers took an 11-7 lead.

“We had to play them all four quarter and we didn’t do that,” Hawks coach Zach Stewart said. “Going down five goals in the third or fourth quarter, that’s really tough.”

Gardiner’s Moore and Maranacook/Winthrop’s Glazier each finished with three goals. Hawks goalie Zach Bessette made seven saves Gardiner goalie JD Crocker made 10 saves, including five in the fourth quarter.

“JD played exceptionally well,” Johnson said. “Zach Bessette is the best goaltender in the area and one of the best in the state and JD stepped up to the challenged and matched him.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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