LAGUNA HILLS — JSerra High scored goal after goal early in a semifinal of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division boys' playoffs Saturday night at Laguna Hills High.
The No. 3-seeded Lions went up three goals before No. 2 Corona del Mar could score. The Lions continually held off the Sea Kings. The Lions upset the Sea Kings.
Mitch Kingsley scored five goals to lead JSerra to a 9-8 victory. Both teams played with a lot of passion. Yet, the Lions (17-4) seemed to play with a bit more than the Sea Kings (15-2).
Corona del Mar had beaten JSerra, 8-5, on April 15. But this was a much different story.
Kingsley made sure of it. He scored two goals in the Lions' 3-0 run. Sherwin Gersten, who had a hat trick for CdM, broke the Sea Kings' scoreless drought with an assist from Stephen Von Der Ahe.
CdM Coach G.W. Mix wasn't so much surprised about the Lions' ability to grab a 3-0 lead. But he felt stunned his team wasn't able to get back in the game earlier than late in the final quarter.
The Sea Kings' surge came with just under two minutes left to play when Gersten scored his third goal to put CdM within, 9-7.
Jay Damon then scored with 52 seconds left. It was a spectacular goal as he scored while he was on the ground. That was the closest CdM got all game.
The Lions celebrated after the game and the Sea Kings appeared disappointed and in shock, as the song, "Happy," by Pharrell Williams blared on the speakers. But it was only the Lions who were truly happy.
"It's going to be a tough ending for somebody," Mix said. "No doubt about that. We were just kind of hopeful it wouldn't be us. They did a heck of a job. We dug ourselves in a bit of a hole and made it more challenging on us than we needed to."
In addition to Gersten's three goals, the junior also had three groundballs. Von Der Ahe, a sophomore, finished with two goals to go with his assist. Junior Ben Palitz, one of the reasons CdM plans to contend again next year, added two assists and two groundballs, while Damon, the senior, added two goals, and junior Nino Chavez contributed one goal and one groundballl.
Junior goalie Hoyt Crance recorded six saves and sophomore Jason Simaan played a strong role, winning 16 out of 19 faceoffs.
"Their kid [senior goalie Jake Henigman] made some big saves in the end," Mix said. "I don't think I've ever seen a team hit the pipes [when shooting] as much as we did tonight. That is what it is. [The Lions] earned their way into the next round."
The Lions definitely finished their opportunities more often than the Sea Kings. Any time it appeared Corona del Mar grabbed momentum, JSerra would score to show it remained in control.
The Lions move on to Wednesday night's final at Aliso Niguel High against top-seeded Foothill, which beat San Clemente, 13-8.
Mix took pride that the Sea Kings did not quit and were able to nearly catch JSerra.
"That's what our kids do," Mix said. "There's a reason we've been in five of the last six of these. Our kids know how to compete."
A recording of the semifinal can be seen at www.maxlaxoc.com.