If they couldn’t, then coaches wouldn’t have anything to yell at their defenses about.
Good communication, sound stick work and commitment to assignments can stop many potential shots from finding the net.
However, there are exceptions, and Mateo Brown’s game-winning goal that lifted the Mt. Hebron boys lacrosse team over Centennial on Monday was one of them.
Brown came from behind the net, gained leverage on his defender by jumping with his back towards the goal, turned in the middle of the air and ripped a left-handed shot in the top-left corner of the net.
The goal put Mt. Hebron ahead of Centennial with 1:34 left en route to the Vikings’ 10-9 win in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 3A East region semifinals.
“That was a great play,” said Centennial head coach Nick Kellinger. “He was able to get to a great spot and take a good-looking shot. We had some good defense on it, but he’s a fantastic player and he can make that kind of play.”
Brown, a junior attack, said the goal was “one of those you dream about.”
“What really got it for me was diving and putting it all out there,” Brown said. “(Centennial’s) Stafford (Smith) is a great defender. He had me locked up, but since I had that extra (space) with that dive, I got that shot off.”
Mt. Hebron head coach Mike McCarthy said while Brown struggled in the first half, the whole team knew he would come up in big in the second half.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” McCarthy said. “We knew it was only a matter of time before he broke through, and he did. He’s a fantastic player and a great leader. I expect nothing less of him.”
The game at Centennial High School was back and forth, with neither squad owning more than a two-goal lead.
The defending 3A East region champion Eagles (11-5) drew first blood with a goal from Connor Carpenter. The Vikings (6-10) quickly responded with a goal from Danny Herlihy.
After ending the first period tied 1-1, both teams scored two goals in the second period to enter halftime tied 3-3. Centennial’s second-period goals came from Charlie Hockersmith and Carpenter, while Garrett Snyder scored both goals for Hebron.
Snyder, who missed the first seven weeks of the season recovering from an ACL tear he suffered last summer, led all goal scorers with five and added an assist.
“Garrett is a competitor,” McCarthy said. “He’s worked so hard to get back. … He would come to practice and go to physical therapy after practice.”
The Vikings came out of the gate firing in the second half. Brown and Snyder both scored goals in the first two minutes to give Hebron a 5-3 lead. Centennial then scored three straight goals — two from Peter Krawczyk and one from Hockersmith — to take a 6-5 advantage.
“After the third goal, I was going to take a timeout to slow the momentum, but in such a tight game you want to save those,” McCarthy said. “(We) persevered. (We’ve) played arguably the hardest schedule in the state. We’ve seen every situation we’re going to see.”
Snyder then tied the game with a rip from 15 yards out.
“He can beat you with the dodge, and he’s such a dangerous shooter,” Kellinger said. “We saw him get stronger through the year once he came back. … He made some really good plays.”
Centennial’s Andrew Kauffman scored with 1:30 left in the third period, and Hebron’s Cam Stockenberg made a buzzer-beater to tie the game at 7-7 entering the final 12 minutes.
Hockersmith scored his third goal of the game to start the fourth period, which gave the Eagles their last lead of the contest. Hebron then scored two straight goals, one from Snyder and one from freshman Gavin Fleck.
Jake Ritter tied the game for Centennial with 2:23 left before Brown’s game-winner.
Kellinger said he was proud of the way his team played, specifically his 10 seniors —Krawczyk, Smith, Hockersmith, Kauffman, Gavin Kemp, Matt Demme, Thomas Martin, David Gostomski, Noah Bussink and Andrew Brillante.
“They’ve put their heart and souls into this thing,” Kellinger said. “It’s tough to see them go out this way, but I think they left a lasting mark on our program.”
Mt. Hebron moves on to the 3A East region championship against the winner of the J.M. Bennett against Chesapeake (Anne Arundel County) game, which was postponed on Monday and will be played Tuesday. Hebron lost to J.M. Bennett 12-11 in double overtime a month ago.
Brown believes the Vikings have a “chip” on their shoulders this postseason. They went 4-10 in the regular season due to a difficult schedule and a rash of injuries that McCarthy said cost the starting lineup about 120 starts combined.
“With all the injuries, we were never 100 percent,” Brown said. “We did really have to prove ourselves. We had that mindset to prove ourselves in the playoffs.”
The 3A East region championship will be Wednesday at a time to be determined.
Mt. Hebron (6-10) — 10, Centennial (11-5) — 9
3A East region semifinal
Goals: MH— Garrett Snyder 5, Mateo Brown 2, Gavin Fleck 1, Cameron Stockenberg 1, Danny Herlihy 1; C— Charlie Hockersmith 3, Connor Carpenter 2, Peter Krawzcyk 2, Andrew Kaufman 1, Jake Ritter 1