(Photo by Josh Kaufmann)

Strong defense kept Milton in front for three quarter, and back-to-back scores by Ethan Howell launched a five-goal fourth and sent Milton on to the Division II boys lacrosse semifinals with a 10-5 victory over visiting U-32 on Friday.

The top-ranked Yellowjackets improved to 12-4 with the win and will take on No. 5 seed Harwood at home in a semifinal on Tuesday. The Highlanders won the teams’ only regular-season meeting, 7-6 in Duxbury on May 19.

In Friday’s quarterfinal Howell — who finished with six goals — staked Milton to a 2-0 lead with a pair of scores in the third and sixth minutes of the opening period.

But the Raiders, many of whom had played on U-32’s ninth-seed soccer team that took No. 1 Milton into overtime in a soccer semifinal on the same field in the fall, came back with their first score to make it 2-1 after one. Tim Dockham’s goal and assist in the second period put Milton up 4-2 at the half before U-32 scored twice in three minutes early in the second half to tie it up at four all.

Howell’s third of the afternoon regained the lead for Milton with 1:42 left in the third quarter, and four Yellowjacket goals in the first half of the fourth put it away.

Howell opened the final period scoring off one of John Larose’s two assists just 25 seconds in, and made it 7-4 with 7:28 remaining, unassisted. Devon Jackson followed with back-to-back tallies 11 seconds apart. Colby Bergeron set up the first of the two quick scores, and Sam Patterson assisted on the second, which pushed the lead to 9-4 with 6:37 to go.

Dockham’s second of the game, unassisted, finished Milton’s scoring with 2:13 remaining before U-32 picked up a final goal with 1:35 left.

Dustin Rock made 20 saves in goal for Milton to earn the win, facing at least five shots on goal in each quarter.

Max Kissner stopped 15 shots in goal for the No. 8 Raiders, who finish 7-8.