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Collins Hill boys win first lacrosse playoff game in OT thriller

SUWANEE -- The Collins Hill boys couldn't have won the first lacrosse playoff game in team history in more dramatic fashion.

Trailing Hillgrove for more than 36 minutes, Ryan Floress tied the game late to force overtime and Andrew Martinez provided the heroics in the extra period to give the Eagles a thrilling, come-from-behind 5-4 victory Tuesday.

"You get in the huddle and you look around at the boys that you've been playing with for years," Martinez said. "The chemistry is just there. You don't want this to be their last game."

Floress and Martinez both had two goals in the game, but it was the second for each that propelled Collins Hill into the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs for the first time.

Floress tied the game with 3:44 left in regulation, going over the top to beat Hillgrove's stalwart goalkeeper Sam Norris. The goal came just minutes after the Eagles were able to kill off three overlapping penalties that left them down men and under heavy pressure from the Hawks.

It was the first time Collins Hill was even with Hillgrove since the Hawks scored first 5:29 into the game and allowed the Eagles another chance to complete the rally.

The perseverance was rewarded with Martinez' shot 1:25 into overtime.

"We did come out a little flat on offense, but we're led by a great senior group on defense," head coach Ryan Keefer said. "Those guys carried us through the game and our offense came through when it counted. That's what matters."

It was a defenseman, Chris Stewart, that sparked the opportunity for Martinez. Stewart scooped up a groundball in front of his own crease and sprinted for midfield, all at once defusing a scoring chance for Hillgrove and creating one for Collins Hill.

The ball was worked down low to Abe Heller and Heller sent a centering feed to Martinez.

"(Heller) and I have been hooking up all season and when I caught that pass, I knew this was a chance," Martinez said. "The goalie didn't like it low and we'd been shooting high on him all game. So I just took the shot and it went it. I couldn't believe it. I was beyond grateful."

Martinez wasted no time when he got the pass from Heller, slinging the ball into the back of the net and sparking a massive celebration from his teammates.

"I knew it was going to be a close game and I knew that the only opportunity we were going to have to win this game was to shoot," Martinez said. "It's not going to happen if you don't shoot. My team has played their hearts out. At the end of the game, we called it a family. That really meant a lot to us. That got us all fired up."

The Eagles overcame a multitude of turnovers and some good early scoring chances that went for naught. Much of the credit for Collins Hill being within striking distance at the end goes to the defense and goalkeeper Chris Matos.

Hillgrove had a 2-0 lead early in the second quarter and Matos made one of his biggest saves of the game with less than a minute left in the half. Matos turned away a point-blank shot labeled for the back of the net and then teammate Kyle Burke scored with one second left in the half to make it a 2-1 game.

"(Matos) played fantastic," Keefer said. "Without him we would have been in trouble. We have an amazing group of seniors. They get all the credit for the way they played this whole season. They just played outstanding."

The Eagles went down 3-1 and 4-2 in the third quarter on a pair of goals by Nick West. But in between those tallies came Floress' first goal and then Burke set up Martinez early in the fourth to keep Hillgrove from pulling away.

"That was just a huge win," Keefer said.