Trailing by one, Northern had two chances in the final minute of Wednesday’s Maryland 3A boys’ lacrosse final against Westminster. The first came with 25 seconds left when junior J.P. Gross fired a rocket from the left wing that clanged off the post. The Patriots weren’t done, though. The rebound found Gross a second time, providing another chance to force overtime. This time his shot sailed high.
Seconds later, the horn sounded at Paint Branch in Burtonsville. Westminster had won its second straight state title, 9-8, and Gross fell to his knees as three teammates consoled him. Gross then stood up and smothered his face into his jersey in frustration.
“We knew they were going to shoot, down by one,” Westminster goalie Logan Covey said. “That pipe is the goalie’s best friend.”
The defeat marked the second straight year the Patriots (18-2) had their season end with a loss to Westminster in the final. It’s not the scene they envisioned after entering Wednesday with an 18-game winning streak.
But Westminster (19-0) extended its own run to 37 games. The Owls got off to a quick 3-0 advantage, and the Patriots had a difficult time regaining momentum.
“Last year, we fell down 4-0, and we really struggled to get a foot in that game.” Northern Coach Joe Casalino said. “This year, I felt like the play was much more even at 3-0. It was just a matter of us getting some opportunities to fall.”
The Patriots cut the lead to one four times but couldn’t equalize. Sophomore Riley Robeson found cutting junior Zach DeToto in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 4-3. After a Westminster goal, junior Markie Nicholson picked up a groundball near the net and connected on a jump shot on an extra-man advantage to close the gap.
Even after three straight goals by the Owls, Northern again cut the lead to one but couldn’t take advantage of transition opportunities and an extra-man advantage to tie the game.
Freshman Coy Mills scored three times to lead Northern, while junior Conner Covey scored a game-high five goals for Westminster.
“When you get two really good teams with equal talent and equal effort, these one-goal games can go either way. We had four crossbars that we hit,” Casalino said. “It’s tough to be on this end of it.”