Coming into its tilt with nationally ranked Duxbury, no one would have blamed the Needham boys lacrosse team for simply being happy to be there.
The Rockets wanted more, and they almost got it.
A furious fourth-quarter rally put the Rockets within striking distance of the Dragons, but the clock ran out before the comeback could be completed as Needham fell to Duxbury 10-8 last night in the Eastern Massachusetts Division 1 state title game at Harvard Stadium.
“We did a lot of what people doubted we could do,” Needham coach David Wainwright said. “I think we’re pretty satisfied with the fact that we gave them a great game; we made them worry a little bit.”
In the early going it was all Duxbury. The Dragons led 3-0 after a quarter and 7-3 early in the second half.
The Rockets kept within striking distance and never let Duxbury get too far ahead. Needham senior goalie Lucas Davis turned aside seven shots to keep the Rockets in it.
“The attitude is that we just never quit,” Wainwright said. “We began with this senior class, way back in the day, with a committed group of guys trying to get to this game, and they got there and they wanted to make sure they played every last second of the game.”
Junior Nico Panepinto, who was honored as an All-American prior to the game, scored a game-high four goals. Nico’s younger brother Mike and seniors Tim Parlato, James Caruso, and Mark Riley also scored for Needham.
“This is when you have a special year,” Wainwright said. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of special groups, but this one really, who gets to the finals, can say it’s one of the best of the best.”
The fourth quarter was all Rockets, and it was not without its idiosyncrasies. Needham scored three goals in less than a minute, and benefited from a string of Duxbury penalties that gave the Rockets a 5-on-3 advantage.
Parlato’s goal came at the 5:07 mark of the quarter, but once Duxbury was back to full strength the quality scoring chances for Needham dropped.
Riley said that he would like have another crack at Duxbury, but he’s grateful to have played on the biggest stage.
“It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” Riley said. “I’d like to do it over, but it was a good run. I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates. I love them to death. It was a great run; great season.”
Riley went on to say that his time wearing the blue and gold taught him to cherish the moment.
“Just work hard and don’t take anything for granted,” Riley said. “Every opportunity you get to play on the field and play with your teammates just cherish it. Don’t take it for granted.”
Riley will continue his lacrosse career at Bates College in Maine.