Case study: How one quarter proved the importance of the two-point shot

By Doug Greenberg

Jul 15, 2020

Lacrosse is a simple game: get the ball, keep the ball, score the ball. If you score more goals than the other team, you win the game… most of the time. 

Professional lacrosse has utilized a two-point line for years and, in its inaugural season, PLL implemented a new iteration of the arc that sees its peak sit just 15 yards away from the goal. It was designed to increase scoring, force defenses to stay alert, and allow any team -- no matter their deficit -- to stay competitive in a game.

There have been plenty of exciting moments in two-pointer history, but the rule’s momentum-shifting nature was on full display in the first-round matchup between Redwoods and Archers in the 2019 postseason. 

Prior to their fateful matchup, these teams were not known for their two-point shooting prowess. Redwoods had scored a league-worst two two-point goals, four behind the next closest team, Archers, who actually shot the fewest two-point shots in the league with 45. Redwoods finished the regular season with 46 two-point attempts, 17 of which came from the stick of midfielder Sergio Perkovic, though none of his chances converted.

As expected, the playoff battle was tightly contested early on and neither team had scored from long-range, until about halfway through the third quarter. The defense was playing tight to the goal when Redwoods attackman Ryder Garnsey flipped the ball to Perkovic streaking from the sideline. With the defense trapped in its zone, the midfielder launched a shot from beyond the arc.

Perkovic’s first two-pointer of the year instantly turned an 8-7 Redwoods’ deficit into a 9-8 lead. Archers quickly leveled the score, but then it was Redwoods captain Brent Adams’ turn to get in on the longball.

Suddenly, Redwoods led by two in an elimination game. They had equaled their regular season two-point goal total in the span of three minutes and had seemingly busted this game wide open. 

And yet, it wasn’t over for Archers just yet. On the ensuing faceoff, Archers LSM Scott Ratliff found the ball in his stick and buried a shot from deep.

Where an 8-7 game stood just moments before was now the site of an 11-11 barnburner. At this point, Archers’ defense seemed to decide to lock down on the long-distance game. This dire mistake demonstrated another benefit of two-point strategy.

On Redwoods’ next three possessions, Archers stepped up to the top of the defensive zone to take away the two-point shot. But Woods adjusted, displaying pristine passing to find attackman Wes Berg for a trio of unanswered goals.

By establishing an outside shooting game on multiple possessions, Redwoods forced Archers to challenge them at the two-point arc, ultimately freeing up space inside to allow the ‘Woods to run away with this one by a final score of 16-12. When it was all said and done, they led the postseason with four two-point goals and earned a berth in the PLL Championship Game.

The two-point shot will always be an inherently risky proposition: simply put, the further you are from goal, the harder it will be to get a shot on target. And even when the ball does find the goal, the goalie has more time to make a save. 

But as Redwoods proved in the most crucial quarter of this do-or-die game, the two-pointer can be a trusty tool for even the most skeptical of clubs. During the PLL Championship Series, where only 20 games will decide this season’s champion, correct usage of it could be the difference between a crowning achievement or an early offseason.

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