Boys Lacrosse: Westminster back on its perch with a region crown

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Westminster has been playing fine lacrosse for the past month during an eight-game winning streak, but the Owls' 13-6 rout of visiting Bel Air in the Class 4A-3A South Region final stood out as an exclamation point for one reason.

It marked Westminster's first trip to the state semifinals since 2013.

"It's quite an accomplishment," Westminster coach Steve DeFeo said. "I'm proud of how hard they have worked and their desire to get this far. "It's a different team than the past couple of years. These guys are highly-motivated, skilled lacrosse players."

The Owls (16-1) advance to play Montgomery County's Churchill either Friday or Saturday at Gaithersburg High School.

"It will be a really tough challenge for us," DeFeo said. "Our guys will have to play their best lacrosse."

Westminster turned the game into a rout in the third quarter, getting consecutive goals from Noah Park, Conner Covey, and Bubba Love in the first 5:27 to give the Owls a 11-3 cushion.

Bel Air (11-6) scored the last three goals of the final quarter, but it was too late for a comeback against the high-scoring Owls.

"They are extremely athletic and they turn your turnovers into goals," said Bel Air first-year coach Doug Testerman, whose team was led by Brandon Keller's two-goal performance. "They are just a little more athletic than us and they have been playing together for a long time."

Junior Alec Kozlowski, who led eight Westminster scorers with three goals, got his team on the board 3:25 into play, placing a shot past goalie Chris Hagy on Chase Buckwalter's assist.

It didn't take Bel Air long to answer.

Westminster goalkeeper Johnny Hulsman saved Ben Fleagle's shot, but Keller quickly picked up the ground ball and scored.

Ryan McManus benefited from another accurate Buckwalter feed to put the Owls ahead 2-1 lead with 7:24 remaining. Buckwalter and Patrick Stewart added goals before the end of the quarter to give Westminster, which held a 10-2 advantage in shots in the period, some breathing room.

Bel Air cut the margin to 4-2 about a minute into the second quarter when Finn Gottschalk beat Hulsman with a blistering shot to the lower right corner.

Westminster answered 22 seconds later on an unassisted goal from Brandon Kim to make it 5-2. Hulsman had his best stretch of the game in the middle of the second quarter, stopping three consecutive shots within a two-minute stretch.

Bel Air's offense pressure prompted DeFeo to call a timeout with 5:32 left and ask his players to exhibit more control.

The Owls listened. Westminster got goals from Love and Matt Banks over the next three minutes on its way to a 8-3 halftime lead. The Owls wouldn't have been able to jump ahead if it wasn't for the play of Kim, a junior who won eight of 11 face-offs in the first half and 13 of 18 overall.

"He has worked his tail off as a face-off specialist," DeFeo said about Kim. "And he got a big goal for us tonight."

Goals: W-Alec Kozlowski 3, Bubba Love 2, Ryan McManus 2, Noah Park 2, Brandon Kim, Conner Covey, Chase Buckwalter, Patrick Stewart; BA-Brandon Keller 2, Ben Fleagle, Finn Gottschalk, Matthew Creaghan, Noah Persing.

Assists: W-Love 2, Stewart 2, Park 2, Buckwalter; BA-Keegan McHugh

Saves: W-12 (Johnny Hulsman); BA-18 (Chris Hagy).

Halftime: Westminster, 8-3.

tworgo@baltsun.com

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