There is no better feeling than watching a lacrosse game winner unfold. The ending of this past weekend’s game between the Georgia Swarm and Philadelphia Wings was absolutely wild. The Wings seemingly had everything in hand to walk away with a close but solid win.
After Matt Rambo missed an empty netter on their final possession, the Swarm had a chance to answer for a tying goal. With mountains of time remaining, and a 6 on 5 advantage, the Swarm were able to do just that. They took a few tries, but ultimately Brendan Bomberry was able to score the equalizer just before time expired and overtime was official.
Fortunately for the Wings, they have Trevor Baptiste taking draws. Going into overtime, Baptiste was 19/26 (73%), and was able to win the clamp in overtime and call time out. This gave Wings Head Coach Paul Day the chance to draw up a set play to win the game, which is exactly what he did.
The reason why this play in particular stood out to me is not only the fact they scored the game winner in only 10 seconds, but also it was a quite simple lacrosse play. It relied on everyone doing what they were supposed to do, and it wasn’t like Georgia massively misplayed it either. The Swarm can definitely look at what transpired and find ways they would have done things differently, but the series of events that led to the pass from Kevin Crowley to Blaze Riorden to win the game were perfectly executed.
Let’s break down what actually happened.
Coming out of the time out, Philly started with the ball in Kevin Crowley’s stick near the penalty box. They didn’t do anything fancy, just three lefties and two righties. Corey Small would be the high lefty waiting for an outlet while Blaze Riorden and Matt Rambo were down in the far corner. Ben McIntosh was the other righty, starting down near the crease on Crowley’s side.
After the whistle, Crowley crossed it over to Small and stayed where he was. Small would pass down and pick down to Matt Rambo, who would then send it back to Crowley just right along the boards while staying very high, almost near the midline.
In the Broadcast, they pointed out how Bryan Cole actually made an attempt to pick off the pass from Rambo to Crowley (which you can see above). He did do that, but given how close this pass was to the midline, the risk in doing so was lessened as it gave Cole plenty of time to recover.
When Crowley started his run towards the net, it’s important to see what he saw. His lacrosse IQ really kicked in here and was able to set up the game winner. Poulin was already well adjusted to that side of the floor and had the near side pipe well guarded.
With Rambo being so high on the floor, the Georgia defense was essentially playing 5 on 4 inside, which was definitely to their advantage. The key to this play happening the way it did was Ben McIntosh.
McIntosh starts by running into the middle of the defense which draws attention from 3 players: his own original defenders (who now is also looking to help as Cole recovers), Rambo’s defender (who is coming back down to be help) and Riorden’s defender (who is also looking to be a slide if needed).
If Crowley were to make a run at the goal in this setup, he would be looking to crash down low and dive across the crease. The other option would have been a two man game with McIntosh right on top of the crease as well, but what McIntosh does is setup the Riorden shot perfectly.
By stopping his run short, he seals not only Rambo’s defender from getting inside, but more importantly he occupies his stick to prevent it from being in the passing lane. With a lefty defender, this pass probably doesn’t happen. Since McIntosh has the inside seal on this defender, it also mean’s Riorden has to be in a position to help in the event that McIntosh breaks towards the goal. This gravity McIntosh has on the inside is what give Riorden those extra few feet of separation to score the game winner.
Crowley is then able to see this opening and not only make his pass before the slide comes and before Cole fully recovers, but also as the middle defender (Joel White) can’t get his stick in the lane while Riorden is hitting the top of his curl with Poulin fully committed to Crowley’s side of the floor.
When Riorden does catch the ball, he has just enough time and room to set his feet and shoot near side before Poulin can move across the cage. His own defender (Chad Tutton) is able to close to gap before Joel White can shift his attention from McIntosh over to Riorden. There is also likely a little bit of a screen at play here, too.
So what would have happened if Georgia played this a little differently? There are basically four options. One scenario is that McIntosh could have had a pass from Crowley for an inside look right on the top of the crease if he had been given more space. Had he been given less space, Crowley could have just continued down the side and looked to score there himself, or reset the play. They still had 19 seconds left on the clock after all.
The final option would have been if Georgia had been able to stay closer to Riorden while still shutting off both righties, Blaze had a wide open Rambo up the floor to reset the ball to, where they could have gone with another set or just see what he may have created as an initiator on the other side.
So while many in the lacrosse world hate the idea of calling timeouts immediately in overtime to set up a game winner, this was a great example of when it not only worked, but worked perfectly on the first try.
Could Philly have scored and done something similar to this on their own without Paul Day’s oversight? Sure, but giving him the chance to take those five players and cover exactly what he wanted them to do is what gave the Wings this win. The NLL is set to have one its most exciting season’s in recent memory and this game just adds fuel to the flame.