Thunder's Gait puts hurt on Saints, 18-15

Aching star's 2nd half helps team bounce back from first loss of season

February 13, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Gary Gait didn't expect to play yesterday morning. He hobbled at times and seemed hesitant in his power moves to the goal.

But it's apparent that an injured Gait is better than no Gait at all.

Fighting off a pelvic inflammation, Gait scored four goals and added two assists in a game-turning 6-3 second-half run, carrying the Thunder to an 18-15 victory over the New York Saints last night before an announced crowd of 7,023 at Baltimore Arena.

Indoor lacrosse's four-time Most Valuable Player turned an 11-9 third-quarter deficit into a 15-14 lead midway through the fourth and provided some much-needed focus. Gait put the Thunder up for good at 15-14 with 7: 01 left in the game, charging past Tom Naglieri on the left wing to slam in the game-winner.

"Dead serious, I didn't think I was going to play," said Gait, who contributed all his points during a 17-minute span. "I was tentative the whole game. But in the second half, I said, `What the heck.' It's amazing what a shot of adrenalin can do."

The National Lacrosse League-leading Thunder (6-1) rebounded from its only loss of the season but still required the calming influence of Gait and Paul Cantabene (two goals, five assists, 10 loose balls) to put away the Saints (1-3), losers of three straight.

The Thunder had to deal with the turmoil of Matt Shearer, its third-leading scorer, being scratched abruptly from the lineup as a result of a coach's decision, as well as two goalkeeping changes. The Thunder had troubles adjusting, falling behind 5-1 late in the first quarter.

Yet a late turnaround gave the Thunder a 2 1/2-game cushion with five regular-season games left.

"Sometimes we keep teams in it because it seems like we're afraid to succeed," Cantabene said. "In the fourth quarter, we played with a lot more emotion."

And it appears Gait provides that lift. Last week in its first game without Gait this season, the Thunder lost for the first time, scoring on just two of 18 fourth-quarter shots. Last night, Gait made certain the Thunder didn't fade.

After banging off Darren Lowe, Gait powered a left-handed shot from the middle to tie the game at 13 at 2: 10 into the final quarter. He set up Joe Hiltz's goal two minutes later with a behind-the-back pass that put the Thunder ahead for the first time in the game at 14-13, then scored the game-winner after New York had tied it at 14.

Pub Date: 2/13/99

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