Every kid growing up remembers how unfair playing make-it take-it was during a pickup basketball game. It made one team’s chances of making a comeback exponentially more difficult.
Make-it take-it also exists in boys lacrosse. A dominant faceoff specialist can take over the game and give his team possession after every goal scored. Mason Davis was that guy for Glenelg on Saturday and carried the Gladiators to a 12-7 victory over Hereford in Pasadena and to the 2A state championship game for the second time in three seasons and 11th in the last 22 years.
Glenelg (12-6) will face Century 6 p.m. Tuesday at Paint Branch High School for a chance to win its first state title since 2011 and fourth overall.
“Possessions are always key. That’s what we’ve been saying all season,” said Davis, a junior who won 19 out of 21 draws and also assisted two goals. “Possession is key to winning the game and when we get our offense the ball we’re going to score. We’re confident in that.”
Offensively, seven different players scored for Glenelg and Kevin Doughty, Michael Doughty, Kyle Dry and Ryan Hopkins each found the back of the next on multiple occasions. After trading the first two goals, the Gladiators went on a 6-0 run to finish the first half and then scored three of the first four in the second half to take a comfortable 10-2 advantage with 7 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
But as dynamic as their offense was dodging and filling the score sheet, Davis made it all go. Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said Davis’ performance was “the major factor in the game.”
“Even if they do make a nice play in transition or they have a nice offensive set, we know we’re getting the ball back,” he added. “We’re at least going to chew some time and get a couple opportunities to score. It’s one of the biggest weapons you can have and we’re lucky to have Mason.”
Hereford coach Sal Picataggi said there were no excuses for the poor play at the faceoff ‘x’ but noted his team was without its usual specialist.
“We had to rotate different guys in who haven’t really done it all year,” he said. “We knew we were going to struggle there, or we were hoping we were going to try to make some 50-50 balls and stuff like that.”
The Bulls (13-5), however, never quit. Grafton Griffey led the way with three goals and they went on a 4-0 run at the end of third quarter and into the fourth to cut the deficit to 10-6 with 11:04 to play.
Fittingly, Davis came to the rescue for the Gladiators and changed the momentum. He won the ensuing draw clean, sparked a fast break and assisted Kevin Doughty’s third goal to make it a five-goal advantage. Davis, who did the same thing on the goal that made it 10-2, doubled his season assist total in the game.
“Winning it clean is the best,” Davis said. “Everyone is cheering, it’s just awesome. It’s hard to explain. It’s just awesome.”
The extra possessions were especially evident in the second quarter. Hereford possessed the ball just twice — both because of Glenelg penalties — and did not manage a shot in the 12-minute period. The Gladiators, meanwhile, slowly wore the Bulls’ defense down. Tyler Reiff scored early in the frame and then assisted Justin Silk’s tally with 2:53 on the clock. Kyle Dry then outran the Hereford defenders and pushed the lead to 7-1 despite being a man down.
It all circled back to Davis, though, as he won all four faceoffs that quarter and time and time again gave his offense the ball.
“Our offense is going to score and out defense has really buttoned things up, especially in this playoff run, but Mason was feeding us possession after possession. Not only that, the wing guys too,” Hatmaker said. “They’re busting their butt in there and that was the biggest part of the game. They couldn’t stop him and he was winning them any way he wanted. I think he’s one of the best in the state.”
The Gladiators, who have won nine straight games, have already seen Century once this spring — an 8-7 defeat on April 13 in tournament action. It was the last time they lost a game and came at the tail end of a six-game losing streak. Healthy and on a roll, Hatmaker believes his team will be ready for a different result with the state title on the line.
“You get a chance at redemption but we still have a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “We’re going to look back at that film and see what we did wrong and they’ve got a variety of offensive weapons, their defense is fantastic and their goalie is really, really good. We scouted them once and we’ve just got to scout them again, but this time we have to execute.”
Glenelg (12-6) — 12, Hereford (13-5) — 7
2A state semifinal
Goals: G — Kevin Doughty 3, Michael Doughty 2, Kyle Dry 2, Ryan Hopkins 2, Eric Gruber 1, Tyler Reiff 1, Justin Silk 1; H — Grafton Griffey 3, Jake Baldwin 1, Jack Callis 1, Jay Bowen 1, Cole Gibbons 1
Assists: G — M. Doughty 2, Mason Davis 2, Reiff 1; H — Jake Furman 1, Baldwin 1, Callis 1
Saves: G — John Kennedy 6; H — Nick Balducci 9
Halftime: 7-1, Glenelg