Boys’ lacrosse: No. 5 Bow upsets top-seeded Pelham, moves on to state championship

Bow attacker Nate Davis lifts up fellow attacker Billy Smethurst after Smethurst scored a goal in the second half of the Div. III semifinal against Pelham on Wednesday night, June 5, 2024 at Bank of NH Stadium in Laconia.

Bow attacker Nate Davis lifts up fellow attacker Billy Smethurst after Smethurst scored a goal in the second half of the Div. III semifinal against Pelham on Wednesday night, June 5, 2024 at Bank of NH Stadium in Laconia. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Bow players celebrated after beating Pelham in the Div. III lacrosse semifinals at the Bank of NH Stadium on Wednesday night, June 5, 2024.

Bow players celebrated after beating Pelham in the Div. III lacrosse semifinals at the Bank of NH Stadium on Wednesday night, June 5, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Bow defenseman Eli Ayers plays keepaway in the waning moments of the Wednesday’s D-IIi boys’ lacrosse semifinal against Pelham in Laconia.

Bow defenseman Eli Ayers plays keepaway in the waning moments of the Wednesday’s D-IIi boys’ lacrosse semifinal against Pelham in Laconia. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff photographs

Bow defenseman Adam Auclair (left) battles Pelham defenseman Memphis Patterson during the second half of the Division III boys’ lacrosse semifinals in Laconia on Wednesday night.

Bow defenseman Adam Auclair (left) battles Pelham defenseman Memphis Patterson during the second half of the Division III boys’ lacrosse semifinals in Laconia on Wednesday night. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Bow midfielder Luke Virta shoots against Pelham midfielder Kyle Elie during the second half at Wednesday’s D-III boys’ lacrosse semifinal.

Bow midfielder Luke Virta shoots against Pelham midfielder Kyle Elie during the second half at Wednesday’s D-III boys’ lacrosse semifinal.

Bow midfielder Sam Bennett battles Pelham midfielder Jesse Killion during the second half of the Div. III lacrosse semifinals at the Bank of NH Stadium in Laconia on Wednesday night, June 5, 2024.

Bow midfielder Sam Bennett battles Pelham midfielder Jesse Killion during the second half of the Div. III lacrosse semifinals at the Bank of NH Stadium in Laconia on Wednesday night, June 5, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By SOPHIE LEVENSON

Monitor staff

Published: 06-06-2024 1:10 PM

Modified: 06-06-2024 2:13 PM


LACONIA — It took nearly seven minutes for something to happen in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s Division III boys’ lacrosse semifinal, but when it did, it was worth the wait. Bow senior Billy Smethurst catapulted the ball from deep and sent it like a bullet past Pelham goalkeeper Jacob Chafe, finally breaking the 4-4 tie that had stagnated on the scoreboard since halftime. Then, behind stubborn goaltending from sophomore Brad Ekstrom and a vicious attack led by the graduating class, the No. 5 Falcons closed the penultimate round of the playoffs and punched their ticket to the state finals in an electric 10-7 defeat of No. 1 Pelham on Jim Fitzgerald Field. at Laconia High School.

“I thought all of our seniors were really big tonight,” Bow coach Devin Calkins said after the game.

Smethurst scored again just a minute and a half after breaking the tie, catching an assist and pushing the ball right past Chafe. The senior attacker scored the first two goals in a 4-0 Falcon run that stretched into the start of the fourth quarter.

While Bow’s offense kept shots pounding, its zone defense — a design courtesy of assistant coach Tucker Johnson — kept Pelham from a comeback. The zone, like a battlement, made it hard for the Pythons to shoot; Ekstrom made it nearly impossible to score.

“Every day in practice, [Ekstrom] makes plays that make us say, ‘Wow,’ ” Calkins said.

With 9:24 left on the fourth-quarter clock, senior attacker Gavin McCabe swept his lacrosse stick like a broom, nearly 20 yards away from the goal and watched the ball bounce right into Pelham’s net. The Falcons had doubled the Pythons’ score, 8-4, with less than a period to play.

That deficit was probably what sprung Pelham into action.

When McCabe scored, Pelham’s Deigo Jimenez bashed his stick against the turf. The Python defense got tough.

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Bow sophomore midfielder Sam Bennett forced a long-range bounce shot at the goal; Chafe caught it in the cross, passed it to his attackers and watched as they dominated possession and finally answered Bow with a goal.

What had looked like the Bow show moments before was suddenly a tooth-and-nail fight between two teams that each had a shot at seeing the division final.

“The toughest part of the game was just how good of a team Pelham is,” Calkins said. “It’s got really great players at every position.”

Bow hustled. The Falcons beat the Pythons to the next possession opportunity with a sprint and an extended lacrosse stick, then passed the ball to midfield, where junior Keenan Hubbard was ready to run. He cradled it and bolted, launching his whole body at the goal and whipping the ball in from just inches out.

The momentum of Hubbard’s sprint carried him hurtling behind the goal, where he leaped in celebration and pumped his fist. Bow, 9-5, 5:36 to play. Thirty seconds later, it was 10-5, thanks to a pass from senior attacker Nate Davis and an easy flip into the net courtesy, once again, of Smethurst.

“One, two, three, finish the job!” Bow chanted as the Falcons broke their huddle after a Pelham timeout.

It wasn’t that simple: Pelham scored a goal off a shot so hard that it bounced back out of the net. The Pythons scored another one immediately afterwards, closing the gap to 10-7. Ekstrom is tall, and the Pythons figured out his Achilles’ heel — getting shots in between his long legs.

But that seventh goal was Ekstrom’s last moment of weakness. The sophomore refused to let up again; he finished the game with 15 saves.

Esktrom had set the tone all evening; he allowed just one goal in the first quarter, giving the Falcons room to get comfortable before taking their strong lead in the second half.

Davis, Smethurst and the McCabe twins (Gavin and Ryan) led the charge offensively, totaling eight goals and five assists. Davis took care of the Falcons’ two goals in the second quarter, hitting the latter shot with a swing from the 30-yard line like a baseball player up to bat. Pelham’s keeper had no chance.

“Nate stepped up huge; Gavin stepped up huge,” Calkins said.

In the game’s final two minutes, the Falcons — with a three-goal lead — couldn’t leave the box. Pelham took advantage of that added pressure and picked up a steal; Cam Cooke sprinted down the field and launched the ball from deep in a whirlwind arc that should have knocked the wind out of Ekstrom, but instead ricocheted hard off the post to land back in the midfield.

Bow’s student section was on its feet, and so were the parents. A Bow mother smiled, cheered and rang a green cowbell. The boys rushed the field, tackled each other, embraced.

All the Falcons have to do now is win a championship.