STONINGTON — Forgive Kate Johnson if she's unable to recall every one of her goals and assists this spring. After all, she set the Stonington High girls lacrosse program's record for points in a season, which stands at 123.
But the senior will never forget her most recent point.
Johnson's assist on Emma Sabbadini's goal with 1:43 left in regulation gave the Bears a two-goal lead in their eventual 12-11, heart-pounding win over East Catholic in a Class S quarterfinal Thursday that was in doubt until an Eagles shot sailed just wide of the goal with three seconds remaining.
The victory sent the third-seeded Bears (17-3) into Monday's state semifinals against No. 2 Canton at a site and time to be determined. It also avenged a loss in the state quarters last year at East Catholic, which ultimately lost in the finals.
"We needed a goal so badly not only to get the late two-goal lead but to stop their momentum," said Johnson, who finished with three goals and three assists.
"This was our redemption game. They are such an awesome team that can score in 15 seconds if they get the draw. Even up 12-10, they scored with 14 seconds left and got another shot off."
Johnson forms a holy trinity, along with Hannah Lamb and Sabbadini, of some of coach Jeff Medeiros' best players ever. Lamb scored six goals against No. 11 East Catholic, and Sabbadini added three goals and four assists.
The Bears needed peak efforts from them and everyone on the squad as they barely halted the Eagles' 12-game winning streak.
"We played our A game and we had to," Medeiros said. "Win or lose, I would have been proud because we left everything on the field today. We were ready to play, we won 50-50 balls and made defensive steals. They ended our season last year at their grass field, but we showed them how it's done on a turf field."
In the first half, neither team led by more than three goals when Stonington took a 7-5 edge into the break. Johnson controlled the draws and scored her three goals. Lamb also found the net three times, and Sabbadini scored once to go with three assists.
Though the Bears controlled the ball, East Catholic (13-6) struck quickly behind the size and skill of Cami Pasqualoni (2 goals) and Macy Wilcox (3 goals). The Eagles hit three pipes with shots and were frustrated by Bears goalie Isabella McCarthy (11 saves).
Goals by Lamb, Johnson and Sabbadini gave Stonington a 7-4 lead in the final seven minutes of the first half.
The Bears continued their surge early in the second half to lead 10-5 on goals by Lamb, Sabbadini and Lamb, respectively. Megan Detwiler made a stick check of the East Catholic goalie behind the net to feed Lamb for the five-goal lead with 20 minutes left.
But the game was far from over. Pasqualoni sandwiched two goals around Alivia Mountford and Wilcox goals in a 4-0 run to make it 10-9 with 7:05 left. Then a Pasqualoni shot hit a pipe with 6:15 left.
"We did a better job on the draw and had momentum," East Catholic coach Brian Wilcox said. "This team doesn't quit. We had a star-studded team last year and had low expectations early when we were 1-5. We've won 12 in a row and the team believed we were going to come back."
Stonington answered when Sabbadini found a cutting Lamb for a goal with 5:29 left to give the Bears an 11-9 lead. Wilcox scored her fifth goal to make 11-10 with 5:02 left — the last score until Johnson's pass to Sabbadini for the key 12-10 lead.
The Bears hung on despite missing Detwiler, a valuable midfielder who suffered a possible concussion, over the last eight minutes and survived a frenetic last minute.
McCarthy made a save on a free position with 45 seconds left and another save with 33 seconds remaining. Stonington had possession, but East Catholic stole a pass on the Bears' defensive side. Paqualoni converted with 14 ticks left to make it a one-goal game.
"We were on our heels a bit," Johnson said. "This was my last home game, but I was determined that it wasn't going to be our last game."
East Catholic traditionally says a "Hail Mary" as part of their pregame last-minute pep talk. Stonington said a few silent prayers as the Eagles gained gained possession and charged the net, just misfiring from 5 yards out in the last three seconds.
"Even though we had a five-goal lead, I knew it was coming down to the end," Medeiros said. "East Catholic has been here before. This is a quality win and I think the turf made a difference for us."
Stonington held a 29-25 shots edge. Lamb, Johnson and Sabbadini accounted for every point except for one assist each by Katherine Glenn and Detwiler.
Lamb's six goals gave her 88 on the season and 224 in her career, leaving her one short of the leader, '06 grad Caely Melford (89 and 225), in both categories. Sabbadini has a single-season record 42 assists.