The Red Storm and the Red Riots rolled back and forth for a good part of their matchup in Scarborough on Friday night, April 22. In the middle of the third, however, Stormer Cam Nigro broke the stalemate open, scoring three unassisted goals in rapid succession to steal the momentum from South Portland and propel his boys to victory. 13-10 the final.
It was a big win, in Nigro’s eyes.
“Especially coming after that home-opener against Gorham,” he said. “Getting beat in double overtime like that definitely set us up; we knew we had to prepare better for this one.”
“We had many opportunities to close the gap on them in the second half,” said South Portland head coach Tom Fiorini. “We have three freshmen on attack, in a pretty high-pressure game, first game of the year – this is [Scarborough’s] third game. A little edge to them there. When we see them in the playoffs – and we will – I think we’ll have a different story. We’re not even close to peaking.”
South Portland jumped on top early. Jack Fiorini scored the game’s first, and frankly, he made it look easy, flinging a shot from 30 feet through traffic and past Scarborough keeper Dominic Joy. Jake Angell followed Fiorini a minute later, tallying a leisurely point of his own when he curled across the top of the Storm zone, turned and fired.
Scarborough kept their cool under the Riots’ early pressure. The Storm looked perfectly patient on their follow-up possession, and it paid off. They played keepaway on the attack for roughly a minute before Marc Guerette finally found his opening and cut in on the left for a nearside shot past Riots goalie Quinn Watson and 2-1.
Three and a half minutes later, the Storm forced a turnover on a South Portland clear attempt and converted: Nigro emerged from the fray with the ball, then fed forward to Marco Manfra, who beat Watson for 2-2.
“It was good to get a win,” said Scarborough head coach Joe Hezlep, “but more importantly, it was much better for us to play well. We did a lot of things well, defensively. They start three freshmen at attack, but those kids can absolutely handle the ball, they can shoot. And when you’ve got to cover three kids that can score down low and you’ve got to step out to 22, 25 yards to cover Jack Fiorini, it takes a team effort. It was a great team effort.”
The action ping-ponged from there: Manfra-from-Reece Lagerquist put Scarborough on top 3-2, but a few minutes later, a sloppy turnover left the team off their guard and gave South Portland the opportunity to strike back. A quick pass series upfield culminated in a David Fiorini assist on a Cooper Mehlhorn notch for 3-3.
Jack Fiorini to Finn Zechman kicked off the second, putting the Riots back on top, 4-3 – but only for 30 seconds or so, because Manfra to Sam Neugebauer promptly evened things up again. Nigro then scored his first of the day on a wraparound, but Jack Fiorini soon answered for 5-5.
Assisted by Zechman, Angell inched South Portland ahead again, 6-5, with 4:15 to play before the break. That would, in fact, remain the state of things through halftime. Ninety seconds into the third, however, Nigro stole on another botched Riots clear attempt, charged inward and bested Watson for 6-6.
Manfra put the Storm up 7-6 two minutes later, but midway through the quarter, Mitch Adams-to-Zechman balanced the board yet again.
That’s when, apparently, Nigro had had enough, because in the span of four minutes, he hashed the bout’s next three goals.
Hezlep expounded Nigro’s improvements: “Nigro has a history – and still does – of running himself into three people,” said Hezlep. “He smartened up, realized his arms were pretty sore, and he probably shouldn’t do that, so he found space, ran to good spots on the field.
“He wasn’t getting his hands free to shoot, in the first half,” Hezlep added. “You got a stick in your hands, there’s someone pushing you while you’re trying to shoot, it’s really hard to do. It’s like trying to hit a golf ball when someone’s pushing you.”
“In the first part of that game, we had to settle down and figure out the defense,” said Nigro. “Then we realized they weren’t really sliding too much; they were playing more man-on-man, pushing out to cover the adjacent slide. So if we just beat our one man, then we definitely got a good look inside.”
In a rivalry matchup between two top-tier teams, no lead is perhaps “comfortable,” but 10-7 was more breathing room than either squad had yet earned on the evening, and it proved just the boost Scarborough needed. Drew Cusson assisted Neugebauer to make it 11-7 in the early the fourth, and Guerette and Manfra each notched another to push the Storm all the way out to 13-7.
Admirably, South Portland began to dig themselves out of their six-point grave with five and half left to play. Fiorini assisted Angell for 13-8, then Adams for 13-9. Alas, the Riots’ final point – on a Mehlhorn feed to Angell – came just seconds before the final buzzer; they’d simply run out of time.
Tom Fiorini elaborated on the edge Scarborough might’ve held, having played more games already: “They’re working on a little more detail, where we’re still working on first-game jitters. They’ve already played an overtime game – that makes a big difference. It’s a tough place to come play, here in Scarborough. Scarborough played a good game, we didn’t; they played a better second half than we did.”
All told, Nigro finished with five goals and an assist for the Storm; Manfra finished with four and one. Neugebauer and Guerette tallied a pair apiece. On the Riots’ side, Angell finished with four goals, and Jack Fiorini with two goals and a trio of assists; Zechman had two goals, and Mehlhorn and Adams a goal and assist each.
Shutting down Jack Fiorini – easily one of the best players in the state – was a priority for Scarborough, and one they managed well.
“When you get a kid who’s 6-foot-5, who can shoot like he can,” said Hezlep, “you have to make some accommodations. We had to get out, play him a little further than kids usually would this time of year…That first goal, it was quite a shot.”
The win boosted Scarborough to 2-1 on the season. They were scheduled to travel to Westbrook to face yet another strong opponent on Wednesday the 27th, after the Current’s deadline. South Portland kicks off their schedule at 0-1. The Riots faced Biddeford on Tuesday the 26th; they visit Falmouth on Saturday, April 30.
“It’s definitely a big confidence boost,” said Nigro, “especially coming off the Gorham loss. It’s good for the boys to get this win – especially for the younger guys, to get some experience like this, going against one of the better teams, some of the better players. It’s going to help them mature. Hopefully, we can do it again, against some other good teams like South Portland.”
Hezlep applauded his boys, especially Joy: “That was the best he’s played this year. He played confident, he was helping out his defense and he was seeing the ball well. When he got a chance to see the ball – when our defense was doing what they were supposed to, on the ball, he played extremely well. In lacrosse, it’s real tough for a goalie, if a kid has no one covering him and he’s shooting, he’s supposed to score.”
Tom Fiorini had praise for his players, too.
“Jack’s always going to have a great game,” he said. “Cooper Mehlhorn had a nice game, I think; Nick (Mezzanotte) played a real solid game at the midfield, LSM. [Zechman’s] more of a football player than a lacrosse player, but he’s working really hard on his lacrosse game – he’s getting good. He’s finishing out there … [Angell’s] doing a nice job; he’s working hard and he really stepped up today … Hustle all over the field.”
South Portland’s Finn Zechman rips a shot toward the Storm net.
South Portlander Jake Angell tallied four goals on Friday.
SoPo’s Nick Mezzanotte tracks the action in his team’s matchup at Scarborough on Friday.
Scarborough’s Cam Nigro unwinds into one of his five successful shots, having shouldered off Riots defender Jake Milton.
The Storm’s Eric Quirk forces and unlucky Riot to cough up the ball.
South Portland’s Cooper Mehlhorn skirts a lunging Wyatt Tanner of Scarborough.
Stormer Colin Hayward and Riot Jack Fiorini clash in their teams’ contest on Friday night.
Stormer Reece Laqerquist defends a Riots attacker.
The Riots’ Mitch Adams breaks heavy Storm coverage to fire on netminder Dominic Joy.