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Bandits fall short in losing to Georgia

On Friday night, the Buffalo Bandits started very slowly but went on a long run to pull away and defeat the Toronto Rock.

They reversed the pattern on Saturday night.

The Bandits jumped to an 8-3 lead early in the second quarter. However, Georgia took control of the game for the most part from there, and went on to a 17-16 victory in Duluth, Ga.

It was a damaging but not fatal loss to the Bandits’ playoff chances, but the team has no margin for error. They must win their last two games and get help. If Buffalo takes two while Toronto drops two, the Bandits could squeeze past the Rock and into a playoff spot – pending results that might cause three- or four-way ties for positions in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division playoff race. The Bandits have two home games left, facing Georgia and Toronto.

New England got an important win over Saskatchewan on Saturday, scoring twice in the final 28 seconds to tie the game and then winning it, 13-12, in overtime. That win eliminated Buffalo's chance of passing the Black Wolves if the Bandits won their last two and New England lost their last two so that both would be 8-10. The Black Wolves would win a tiebreaker between the two teams. If Buffalo, Toronto and New England all finished 8-10, the Rock would be eliminated in the tiebreaker.

Rochester, which lost to Colorado on Saturday, must sweep its three remaining games to stay alive. There is still a chance that all four contenders could finish 8-10.

Buffalo figured to have problems in terms of energy as the game went on. The Bandits got up for a 6 a.m. flight Saturday to Georgia only a few hours after their win the night before. The Swarm, meanwhile, hadn’t played in about a week.

Buffalo jumped to a 5-1 lead in the first seven minutes of play, as Ryan Benesch had two of the goals. The Bandits increased the margin to 8-3 in the first few minutes of the second period.

But the Swarm bounced back. Georgia scored four straight to get back in the game. Buffalo’s Dhane Smith had a goal at the start of the third quarter to put his team up, 11-8, but then the game turned in Georgia’s direction for most of the rest of the half. The Swarm went on a 9-3 run to take a 17-14 lead.

Mark Steenhuis and Benesch got two of those goals back in the last few minutes, but Buffalo couldn’t get the equalizer in the final seconds.

Benesch finished with six goals and two assists, while Smith had three goals and five assists. Lyle Thompson and Johnny Powless had four goals and four assists for the Swarm.

Georgia wrapped up the NLL East title when the Bandits beat the Rock on Saturday night.

The Bandits made one lineup change from Friday night. Billy Dee Smith did not play, while Tim Edwards returned to action after sitting out a game.

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