GARDINER — Patience has not been a virtue for the Gardiner boys lacrosse team at times this season.

Lapses in offensive execution have led to extended stays in the defensive zone for the Tigers, and in recent practices they have made a point of trying to rectify that issue.

“Practice has been all about possession,” Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson said. “To be honest with you, I’m running six poles in practice against my attack and midfield so they’re having to play against six poles. They’re really having to push it a little bit.”

Gardiner’s improved ability to possess the ball was on display Wednesday, as the Tigers held off Freeport 12-6 in an Eastern B quarterfinal. Josh Caldwell led the way for Gardiner (10-3) with four goals and three assists, while Michael Poirier, Chase Begin and Adrian Heath each scored twice.

“It’s just really been the practice that we’ve had every single day drilled into our heads,” Caldwell said of what has been the difference in the Tigers’ attack. “We do the same drills, make sure that we’re possessing the ball and making the correct passes.”

The Tigers patiently picked apart Freeport (6-7) en route to a 5-2 halftime lead, and after pushing their advantage to 9-3 with 2 minutes, 9 seconds remaining on a Begin goal it appeared Gardiner would coast into the semifinals.

However, the Falcons got goals from Zach Owen and Sam Wogan in the final 1:07 of the third quarter,, and 5:18 into the fourth Wogan scored his fifth of the contest to make it 9-6.

But Gardiner did not let Freeport get any closer as defenseman Jake Truman scored with a man advantage a little more than 2 minutes later to extend the lead back to four. Goals from Caldwell and Poirier in the final 2 minutes of the contest clinched it for the Tigers.

Patience at the offensive end was only part of what led to the Tigers’ win Wednesday. They also got a great effort on the draw from freshman Sloan Berthiaume.

“Sloan really stepped it up,” Johnson said. “He won all but three faceoffs, and one of them he won clean but he lost it because he forgot where the ball was. He played exceptionally well.”

Gardiner also got strong efforts from Truman and Caldwell, each of whom recently garnered All-American honors. Heath was named an Academic All-American.

“That was an incredible honor,” Caldwell said. “We found out a couple nights ago and it came as a bit of a surprise, but coach put our names up and he was confident in us so I want to thank him for allowing us to be at this point. It’s a great honor.”

Each of them would likely trade those honors to extend Gardiner’s season past this weekend, though. The Tigers take on No. 2 Yarmouth — who bested Winslow 18-2 in its quarterfinal Wednesday — in the next round of the playoffs.

“It’s going to be tough,” Caldwell said. “Yarmouth has ended my lacrosse season all three years, so we hope to come away with a win. That would be fantastic.”

Evan Crawley – 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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