Fairfield Prep withstood an offensive drought of 23 minutes but maintained a three-goal lead for more than 15 minutes of that stretch to earn its fourth straight SCC lacrosse championship on Thursday afternoon at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven.
The top-seeded Jesuits (13-5) defeated No. 2 Guilford 8-5 for their 13th conference title overall.
Senior attacker Burke Smith and senior midfielder Austin Sims, named the SCC's Player of The Year, each scored two goals for Prep, the 2013 CIAC Class L state champions. The brightest star for the Indians (10-8) was sophomore goaltender James Bright, who made 16 saves, 10 of which came in the first half when the Jesuits erased a 4-3 deficit with four consecutive goals for a 7-4 lead at halftime.
Bright's positioning and quick reactions to Prep shots were the chief contributors to Prep's punchless attack for that long span, which lasted for nearly half of the game.
Guilford scored in the third minute of the fourth quarter -- ending its scoring drought at 21:55 -- when Frank Ranfone (two goals) snuck a shot past Prep goalie John O'Connor to cut the Indians' deficit to 7-5.
"He was great," Prep coach Chris Smalkais said of Bright.
"He was fantastic," said Brian White, coach of the Indians, who lost last year's conference final to Prep by 13-6. Prep beat Guilford in the regular season 11-7 on April 28 in Guilford.
"I thought he was the MVP of the game," White said. "I know you cannot give the MVP to the losing team. If we didn't have him, (the score) would have been more upside down in one direction."
"The difference in the game was their goalie early," Smalkais said. "He made a bunch of key saves that allowed them to stay in it." Bright's saves were affecting Prep's approach in its shots, Smalkais said.
"We were gripping the sticks a little too tight," Smalkais said. "I thought we shot the ball poorly."
Bright made eight saves in the first quarter that ended in a 2-2 tie.
O'Connor recorded one save in the first half. Both coaches said Guilford shot well in the first half.
In the third quarter, which was scoreless, O'Connor made three saves. Bright made another four saves in the third period.
In the second half, both teams' defenses had adjusted to the changing schemes of each team's attack. And each goalie stopped a shot in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter before Ranfone scored.
Prep showed plenty of patience on attack while Guilford's deficit remained at 7-5. In the final 74 seconds, though, O'Connor had the ball in his crease during a clear. Without pressure from Guilford's ride, O'Connor moved forward, then spotted Teddy Long open way downfield. O'Connor's pass hit Long in stride. Long caught it and drove hard to the cage and fired an insurance goal past Bright.
Prep, seeded 10th, will open its Class L title defense with a first-round game on Wednesday against No. 7 Newtown.
email@example.com; 203-337-4879; twitter.com/ReidWalmark
SCC boys lacrosse final
Fairfield Prep 8, Guilford 5
GUILFORD 2 2 0 1--5
FAIRFIELD PREP 2 5 0 1--8
Records: Guilford 10-8, Fairfield Prep 13-5. Scoring: G--Frank Ranfone 2 goals, John Altieri (1g, 1a), William Dacey (1g, 1a), Robert LoRicco (1g, 1a), Eric Zergiebal (1a); FP--Burke Smith (2g, 1a), Austin Sims (2g, 1a), Teddy Long (1g 1a), Chris Brown (1g), Colby Monachino (1g), John Edmonds (1g). Goalies: G--James Bright (16 saves); FP--John O'Connor (9). Shots: G--22; FP--35.