The last time the Bridgewater-Raritan High School lacrosse team lost, Keegan Hickey was there.
“I remember that game went to overtime and it was a similar goal to win,” said Hickey. “It was a hard-fought game that took all 48 minutes and then some. We had to come back to win, and it was a grind-it-out victory.”
Hickey, a senior midfielder for Hunterdon Central, was there again on Wednesday and sank a huge goal late to help deliver the Panthers their first lost in 37 games.
Hickey’s rip with 1:05 left in regulation tied the game at 6, and senior attackman Jackson Lee eventually scored the game-winner with 1:03 left in double overtime as Hunterdon Central, ranked No. 3 in the Courier News Top 5, toppled top-ranked Bridgewater-Raritan 7-6.
It was the Panthers’ first defeat since dropping a 6-5 decision to Central way back on April 23, 2011.
“I was dodging, felt (the defender) overplaying and felt my ankle roll a little bit,” said Lee of the game-winning goal. “I saw the side coming and tried to beat him, and the goalie stepped to the left a little bit and I just beat him.”
Lee posted three goals and two assists to pace Central (1-0), while Hickey finished with a pair goals and junior attackman Mark Diehl added two assists.
“He has the ability to be great,” Hunterdon Central coach Mike Vergalito said of Lee. “He sees people, he’s very quick, has a lot to his game and he’s growing. I think as the year goes on, he’s going to get better and better. He had a great game today for us when we needed it.”
Panthers coach Chuck Apel credited his new-look squad for playing hard.
“I think we were a little nervous coming out with the kids feeling a little pressure of the (winning) streak,” Apel said, “but it’s gone now. I told them I didn’t really care about (the streak) because I’ve lost a lot of games. This is a new year and I wanted them to come in and not play nervous, but they really played their (butts) off.”
Meanwhile, Vergalito was complimentary of Bridgewater-Raritan’s accomplishment in winning 36 straight contests.
“You take these (wins) when you can and enjoy them,” he said. “There’s no doubt that’s a great program and great win for our guys. What Bridgewater-Raritan and coach Apel has done is incredible. And to beat a program like that always feels good.”
Central has now won 10 of the last 14 meetings between the teams, including a victory in the 2008 state final.
Lee described how intense the rivalry between the teams is.
“It (the game) was something we were looking forward to all off season long,” he said. “We saw the schedule over the summer and saw they were the first game of the year and were excited to have the opportunity to play our arch rival and the defending champs on opening day.”
When senior attackman Ryan Mygatt (three goals) scored with 9:30 left in the second quarter it gave Bridgewater-Raritan (0-1) a 5-2 lead.
But the Red Devils dug in defensively, and behind goals from Lee and Hickey, trimmed their deficit to a manageable 5-4 margin by the intermission.
“We just had to keep working, and we just kept hustling and worked for those ground balls,” said Lee. “The defense stepped up huge, and the offense found the back of the net when we had the chance.”