Gonzaga beats DeMatha, 9-8 in overtime, for first WCAC lacrosse title since 1998
As he tried to explain the sequence of events that sent his teammates into a frenzied celebration behind him, Gonzaga sophomore Sean Whitcomb could only shrug his shoulders. He couldn't remember much -- only that it was senior Jake Ruffing who completed the pass that led to his game-winning goal -- in the aftermath of the Eagles' dramatic, come-from-behind 9-8 overtime victory over rival DeMatha in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference boys' lacrosse championship game.
Luckily for No. 3 Gonzaga, once Whitcomb received the deflected pass, he knew exactly what he was doing. His underhanded, point-blank shot with 1 minute 27 seconds remaining in sudden death gave the Eagles their first WCAC title since 1998 in front of a capacity crowd of 2,063 at the University of Maryland's Ludwig Field. The goal completed a comeback that began with Gonzaga trailing, 8-3, heading into the fourth quarter.
"I just remember the seniors were really disappointed last year when we lost to DeMatha" in the semifinals of the WCAC tournament," Whitcomb said. "This year, I just didn't want to see that happen again."
Last year marked the fifth straight time that DeMatha (15-5) eliminated Gonzaga (19-3) in the WCAC tournament. But the fourth-quarter exploits of the Eagles' David Planning ensured that there wouldn't be a sixth.
The junior captain and tournament most valuable player scored three straight goals in a three-minute span to start the final quarter and set up senior Conor Kenny with just more than four minutes remaining to draw Gonzaga to within one goal. Then, with just 40 seconds left, Planning found Ruffing in front of the net to tie the score at eight and force the extra period.
"He had this look in his eye, like 'I'm in a zone,' " Gonzaga Coach Casey O'Neill said of Planning. "I've never seen a look like that."
Afterward, O'Neill, a 1996 Gonzaga graduate, was just like his game-winning goal scorer. He didn't care how the victory came, just that it had finally arrived. So as two of his players approached to drench him in Gatorade, he welcomed it with open arms.
"This means so much, not only to these guys, but to our program," O'Neill said. "Twelve years since we won a championship, that's a long time."
Good Counsel girls win
Good Counsel's Lechner sisters seem to save their best for the WCAC championship game. A year after teaming up to score a dramatic game-winning goal in triple overtime, Shannon, a senior, and Kelly, a junior, scored or assisted on 11 goals and No. 2 Good Counsel cruised to its seventh consecutive WCAC title with a 21-8 victory over Holy Cross.
The sisters, both committed to play at Towson, played a role in eight of the Falcons' first 10 goals as Good Counsel (18-3) built a 15-5 lead by halftime. Shannon Lechner, named the tournament MVP, had four goals and three assists, while Kelly Lechner finished with three goals and an assist. Sophomore Danielle Lukish had a hat trick to lead Holy Cross (13-9).