A lead of only a few goals doesn’t guarantee anything in playoff lacrosse.
But it’s better than the alternative.
Marriotts Ridge scored to open all four quarters and never allowed Mt. Hebron to go on a game-altering run, defeating the Vikings 13-10 in the region semifinals on Wednesday.
“It definitely helped to have that little cushion,” said Marriotts Ridge coach Thomas Minard. “Even when we were up a little, we knew that [Mt. Hebron] is a very good program with some incredible lacrosse players and that a [comeback] by them was possible. It was nice to have that cushion and withstand their runs.”
John Miller, who was instrumental in Marriotts Ridge’s win over Glenelg on May 19 that clinched the Mustangs a share of the county title, was excellent again Wednesday. The senior led the Stangs with four goals, scoring in each of the last three quarters.
“I just know it’s my senior year and that I’m never going to play high school lacrosse again,” Miller said. “I am just putting everything out there every night.”
No. 2 Marriotts Ridge will travel to No. 1 Westminster, which defeated Centennial 16-7 Wednesday, in the 3A East Region I championship on Friday.
Marriotts Ridge (6-1) opened the home playoff game with goals from Topher Kennedy and Avery Gloyd to take an early 2-0 lead. Mt. Hebron (4-4) then scored three of the next four goals to tie the game before the end of the first quarter.
The Mustangs then went on its biggest run of the game with four straight goals to capture a four-goal advantage. Jake Levey started the push about two minutes into the period.
Three minutes later, Reynolds scored twice in an 11-second timeframe. The first was a left-handed goal after a slick fake, while the second was the senior taking advantage of a defensive breakdown. Miller then put one past Hebron’s goalie in the top-left corner of the net to put the Mustangs up 7-3.
“As soon as we felt them getting a little momentum, all we had to do was to slow it down and bring it in,” Miller said. “We still had the lead, and we just had to focus on executing our game plan.”
A Mt. Hebron goal from Cameron Stockenberg, who led all players with five goals, put the Vikes down three at halftime. Stockenberg is one of 10 seniors on Mt. Hebron, and coach Mike McCarthy said he was “proud” of his entire team’s effort Wednesday.
“They battled the whole time. Unfortunately, we’re stuck in a region with a great team,” McCarthy said. “We made too many mistakes today to win, but these guys worked their [butts] off.”
The Vikings then outscored the Mustangs 3-2 in the third period, with Stockenberg, Demek and Giani Karam scoring. Demek and Karam both ended the game with two goals apiece.
The solid quarter from Hebron, though, was dampened by Miller, who scored Marriotts Ridge’s only two goals in the period, and the Stangs went into the fourth up two.
“He’s a big time player,” Minard said of Miller. “He was like that in basketball too. He’s a great athlete. He’s the type of kid who when the game is on the line and you need that goal or even just a clear he will dig deep and get whatever we need. He’s just a competitor.”
Jack Slack then scored his second goal of the game to open the final period — making it four straight quarters the Mustangs found the scoreboard first. The early goals were critical in keeping the momentum on Marriotts Ridge’s side and always making Mt. Hebron play from behind.
“No one ever wants to trail. It’s always great to have them behind us and to focus on keeping the momentum going, and we did that tonight,” Miller said.
The Stangs put the game away midway through the fourth by scoring three of the next four goals with scores from Miller, Levey and Kennedy. Levey scored two goals and led all players with four assists, while Kennedy scored twice and added one helper.
McCarthy said the Mustangs’ depth and experience — on top of their star players — is what makes them hard to defend.
“They’re extremely experienced. If we made any mistake, they capitalized,” McCarthy said. “Charlie is phenomenal and John is great and they’ve got two good goalies and a good coaching staff. You have to be excellent to the highest degree to beat them.”
The Vikings then scored two more goals in the final three minutes, but once again the Mustangs, led by goalies Thomas Coakley (first half) and Tyler Gladstone (second half), remained strong to hold on for the three-goal win.
Marriotts Ridge and Westminster will face off for the first time this season in Friday’s region final. However, the two squads have one common opponent — Centennial. The Owls defeated the Eagles by nine goals on Wednesday, while the Mustangs’ lone loss this season was a two-goal defeat at Centennial in mid-May.
Marriotts Ridge 13, Mt. Hebron 10
Goals: MR — John Miller 4, Jake Levey 2, Jack Slack 2, Charlie Reynolds 2, Topher Kennedy 2, Avery Gloyd; MH — Cameron Stockenberg 5, Brendan Demek 2, Giani Karam 2, Nick Machiran.
Assists: MR — Levey 4, Reynolds 2, Kennedy, Miller; MH — Gavin Fleck 3, Demek, Machiran.
Saves: MR — Tyler Gladstone 11, Thomas Coakley 5; MH — Alan Covert 8, Everett Armstead 8.
Halftime: 7-4, MR.