AUBURN — Auburn battled back, but couldn't quite overtake East Syracuse-Minoa.
The Maroons rallied to tie the score by the end of the third quarter but the Spartans scored the only three goals of the fourth, as the Auburn boys lacrosse team fell to East Syracuse-Minoa 11-8 at Holland Stadium Tuesday.
It's the latest chapter in a budding rivalry, as the Spartans have topped the Maroons in the last two section championship games. For Auburn coach Matt Smith, it all came down to mental mistakes.
"I was pleased with the heart that my team showed," Smith said. "We played hard for four quarters and that was one of the biggest things we wanted to focus on. Playing four quarters and playing with passion for four quarters. The difference in this game was not picking up a ground ball, not chasing a ball off a shot that went out of bounds and not recognizing the game situation. All mental things — all small things — that lead to big consequences.
"We're going to clean this stuff up and get better. Going into the fifth game of the year? I like where we are right now."
Lucas Hogan and Greg Walsh each registered three goals for the Maroons. Hogan also took most of the faceoffs for Auburn.
"I'm so pleased with Lucas in the last two games," Smith said. "Lucas carried us again tonight. He got us the ball in the faceoff X and he's just a warrior on the offensive end. I can't ask any more from Lucas Hogan."
Nick Schattinger and Colin Tardif each scored once, Griffin Dautrich had an assist and Aiden Tardif finished with eight saves.
"I thought Aiden had a great comeback game," Smith said. "He struggled the last game, but I think he came back tonight and made the saves he needed to make, so I was happy with his progress tonight."
The Maroons controlled possession early, but were robbed on three Grade A chances early by the Spartans' Logan Lemelbaum. The East Syracuse-Minoa junior finished with 14 stops for the victory.
"We told the guys to keep shooting," Smith said. "He's a solid goalie and a great stopper, but we had our looks throughout the game and we just couldn't finish on our shots."
While Auburn struggled offensively in the early going, East Syracuse-Minoa jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and tacked on the first goal of the second. The Maroons went on a three-goal run, including a shorthanded marker by Walsh, but the Spartans answered with a three goal run of their own to retake control and a last second shot gave them an 8-5 advantage at halftime.
Auburn scored the only three goals of the third quarter to even the score at 8-8 heading into the final frame, but Jackson Palumb netted the go-ahead goal with a little more than eight minutes left and East Syracuse-Minoa netted a pair of insurance markers to put the game away.
"Those were the little things that cost us goals in the fourth quarter," Smith said. "Not picking up a ground ball led to a transition goal for them. We gave up possession because we didn't chase a ball out of bounds and that led to a goal for them."
Auburn (3-2) looks to rebound when it hits the road to take on Central Square Thursday.
"Central Square is always a battle," Smith said. "Those guys are just tough kids. They have four solid players that can put the ball in the net, so we're going to have our hands full on Thursday."