May 27, 2012

Bradman Scores Six as Salisbury Caps Perfect Year

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | Live Blog Replay

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The punctuation mark on Salisbury's perfect season and second straight national championship, a 14-10 win over Cortland, came on instructions from Sam Bradman's teammate and roommate, Matt Cannone.

The Sea Gulls finally had some breathing room — a 13-10 lead with three minutes left in the fourth quarter — in what was a tightly contested, back-and-forth Division III men's lacrosse title game at Gillette Stadium.

Sam Bradman scored three of Salisbury's first four goals and found success in the pick-and-roll game in the Sea Gulls' 14-10 win over Cortland on Sunday in the Division III national championship game.
© Kevin P. Tucker

Bradman had the ball on a sideline re-start out of a timeout and faced two defenders. "We had the three-goal lead and coach wanted to air the ball out. Matt came up to me and said, 'If you get a shot at the open net, seal this.'" Bradman said.

On the whistle, Bradman sprinted toward the top of the box and cut down the right alley to get free. He let fly a shot that became his sixth goal of the day. It was the last score of Bradman's decorated Salisbury career, his 71st of the season, and provided the final margin in the Sea Gulls' victory over the previously unbeaten Red Dragons.

"I looked at him right after and said, 'Thank you,'" said Cannone, who had two goals and three assists. "It's unbelievable that we were able to accomplish our goals this year. We wanted to go perfect and end the right way. Just being able to go out there with 18 seniors and all the guys and accomplish our goals is an unbelievable feeling."

Bradman, who added an assist to finish with seven points, won most outstanding player honors in the championship game, becoming the first to win the award in consecutive seasons at the Division III level. Salisbury finished 23-0, one year after going 21-1 and beating Tufts in the 2011 final, in which Bradman scored seven.

This win also capped Salisbury's sixth undefeated season in program history and gave the Gulls' a 10th D-III championship overall.

"We've had some pretty special teams at Salisbury, but in the same sentence I can honestly say that this team is right there," Salisbury coach Jim Berkman said.

On Sunday, senior attackman Lantz Carter added three goals and Tyler Granelli won 16-of-26 faceoffs as Salisbury pulled away in the fourth quarter. Ryan Clarke scored on a high-to-high shot from the right wing with 9:05 left to give the Sea Gulls a 12-10 lead, and Carter scored less than minute later in a key spurt before Bradman's final goal with 2:57 left. Granelli won each faceoff during the stretch.

"It was keeping our composure," Cannone said. "I remember my defenseman saying to me, 'I'm cramping up.' Being here two times before [in 2010 and 2011], learning from your mistakes, staying hydrated and off your feet this whole weekend, not getting caught up in the moment — those were important things, and one of the advantages of being here two times."

Cortland (21-1) never trailed by more than two goals until the fourth quarter but found it difficult to handle the Salisbury offense. Bradman scored the game's first goal 29 seconds in, drawing three defenders, yet put in a right-handed jump shot from the alley anyway. He scored three of Salisbury's first four, and had a hat trick just more than one minute into the second quarter off a beautiful, crossfield skip pass from goal-line extended by Tony Mendes.

Toward the end of the second quarter, Cortland had decided to put a short-stick on Bradman to shut him off.

"That opened up the game for the other guys," Bradman said. "We knew that they weren't going to try to switch off me [on picks]. At the end of the game, they got beat a few times so they started switching off me and then we got a step on them."

That's exactly what happened when Salisbury went up 8-7 with 5:49 left in the third. Clarke fed Bradman on pick-and-roll play in the middle of the field and he scored from eight yards.

"I thought the big difference was the amount of picking they did today," Cortland coach Steve Beville said. "Their pick-and-roll game was on. Sam's unbelievably dangerous at it. He's played box all his life. Spent a lot of summer playing box. He is very, very good with the pick-and-roll game."

Meanwhile, Salisbury bumped up defenseman Andrew Sellers to cover the Dragons midfielder Joe Slavik, who had scored twice. "Sellers was able to negate him a little bit," Berkman said. "That was a crucial point in the second half."

It all led to a festive post-game celebration on the turf at Gillette. The Gulls posed for pictures and ran around with the NCAA championship trophy. Yells of "Sam! Sam!" could be heard from kids in the crowd, and Bradman tossed his equipment to them in the stands. Everything went in the air but his helmet and rib protectors.

"My rib pads are indestructible," Bradman said. "I've had them for six years now and wasn't giving them away. It's hard to pick and choose who I throw stuff to, so I just go to the loudest. I sent the helmet to my dad and told him to run with it. I had a little kid come up to me last game, begging me for my gloves. His mom said he comes every game. I said if I see you at the end of the game and you're holding up a sign I'll give it to you. I heard him shouting my name, and threw my gloves. He had a big smile.

"It was a good way to end the season," he said. "It's amazing to go out as a senior like that with back-to-back rings. The rings are where it's at. That's what we like to say."

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