For three quarters yesterday afternoon, the Gilman boys lacrosse team looked like the St. Paul's team that won the state title a year ago.
But a fourth-quarter charge by St. Paul's destroyed that image, and the top-ranked Crusaders remained unbeaten with a 10-9 win over visiting Gilman. St. Paul's is now 11-0 and 9-0 in the MSA A Conference.
"Our kids have been in a lot of close games," said St. Paul's coach Mitch Whiteley, noting that the team has won six one-goal games. "[The team] really did a good job down the stretch."
Riding a three-game win streak of its own, Gilman (9-5, 4-5) took a 6-5 lead into the second half and extended it to 8-5 after three quarters.
Then the Crusaders' experience took over, as St. Paul's scored five of the final six goals.
"They're a great team," Gilman coach John Tucker said.
"We played our hearts out today and it's a shame we had to come up one goal short. I'm extremely proud of the effort our young kids came up with."
With St. Paul's down by three goals, attacker Tim Whiteley took a feed from Joe Gelbard 12 seconds into the fourth quarter to cut the Gilman lead to 8-6.
Whiteley, the coach's son, than assisted Rob Bouse a couple of minutes later to make it 8-7. Michael Watson tied it less than 30 seconds later on an unassisted goal.
St. Paul's took the lead for good, and for the first time since the middle of the second quarter, when Billy Ruhl sliced to the net, took a feed from Whiteley and scored. The goal came at the 5:13 of the fourth.
Watson scored what proved to be the game-winner with 1:46 remaining off another assist from Whiteley, who finished with two goals and four assists.
Gilman pulled within one 25 seconds later when Mark Cornes scored his second goal of the game, but St. Paul's goalie Tom Keratzes turned back a shot by Dylan Schlott, all alone in front of the crease, to preserve the win. Keratzes would finish the day with eight saves.
"He didn't have a great game early on but really came up big in the end," coach Whiteley said.
"Schlott is a big kid and we knew he shoots right-handed, so Tom was ready for it."
Watson had three goals and an assist for St. Paul's, who also got a pair of goals from Rob Bouse.
Mark Cornes, Stewart Kesmodel and Schlott each had two goals for Gilman.