TAMPA — An inch here or there — including a couple of shots that bounced off the post — and Tuesday night’s boys state lacrosse play-in game could have gone either way between Plant and Newsome.
It was that close.
In the end, it was Plant’s Julian Taylor who fired a shot from 20 feet, only to have it ricochet off the ankle of the Newsome goalie and bounce back to Taylor’s stick. Taylor scooped up the ball, charged, faked left and fired right.
Taylor’s winning goal sailed in with 3 minutes remaining.
“When I got the (rebound), I said to myself, ‘It’s going to go in now,’ ” Taylor said. “What a great feeling that was.”
Taylor said it felt even better a few minutes later when the final horn sounded and Plant had a 9-8 victory, making the Panthers the last lacrosse team from Hillsborough County still standing as the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs move on.
“I’ve been playing lacrosse since the third grade, so I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Taylor said regarding the first year Hillsborough County’s public schools have been sanctioned to play in the FHSAA. “It was a great night. It’s been a great week.”
Plant reached Tuesday’s game after beating Jesuit 13-7 on Thursday to take the district title, a victory that was particularly satisfying after the Tigers thumped the Panthers earlier in the season.
Now, Plant moves on to play at Orlando Dr. Phillips, which defeated West Orange 9-8 to advance.
“No doubt, this has been the greatest week for lacrosse for us,” said Plant goalie Christian Chambers, who fought off a furious barrage of Newsome shots at the end of Tuesday’s game. “To see the crowd like that in the stands (more than 300) and all the energy, it was great.”
The game was tight throughout, with Newsome taking a 5-3 lead into halftime, only to have the Panthers score three quick goals during the first four minutes of the third quarter. Newsome tied it at 8 with about 5 minutes remaining, to set up the final dramatic shot from Taylor.
Taylor ended up with three goals, as did his teammates Mason Beedy and Stuart Brannan.
“We’ve been balanced all year, and tonight that balance paid off,” Plant coach John Shaw said.
PLANT 9, NEWSOME 8
Newsome 5 3 — 8
Plant 3 6 — 9
Goals — Rintoul 3, Patrick 2, Amoroso 2, Freeman (N); Beedy 3, Brannan 3, J. Taylor 3 (P). Assists — Rintoul, Liekeset (N); Marnotes 2, Carlson 2, Misner, J. Taylor, Beedy (P). Records — N 13-3, P 14-1.