The St. Mary's boys lacrosse team's long-awaited debut in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference final ended in frustration Friday at UMBC.

The Saints (12-4 overall, 8-4 league) bowed to upstart St. Paul's, 9-8.

The Saints, who defeated the Crusaders, 10-6, in their regular-season meeting April 30, were in position to force the game into overtime in the waning seconds, but lost the handle when it counted most.

Trailing by a goal with 37 seconds remaining, the Saints had one last opportunity to score. David Jones took the ball at midfield and drove to the crease but was stripped of the ball by a St. Paul's defender.

A race to the loose ball ended in a Crusader possession near the Saints' bench with eight seconds showing on the clock.

"I thought we should have had the ball back here on the sidelines, but we didn't get the break," St. Mary's coach Jim Moorhead said.

"It was a great effort for us to come back after they jumped on us like that inthe fourth quarter, but that's the type of kids we have. They're fantastic kids. They played hard and they never got down on themselves."

While St Mary's may have squandered its final scoring opportunity, it was a last-ditch effort by the Saints that put them in the position.

With the score tied at 5 after a scoreless third quarter, thegame was reduced to a 10-minute heat.

St. Paul's (12-4, 8-4), which advanced to the final by upending two-time defending champion Loyola, 11-9, Tuesday, came out of the gates with a fervor in the fourth period.

It tallied three unanswered goals to take an 8-5 lead with5:41 left. St. Mary's closed to within two when Eamon McCormick hit on a feed from Rob Chomo on a power play, but the Crusaders scored again 28 seconds later.

Chomo, who was silent in the first half, breathed new life into the Saints when he found the net, unassisted, with just under three minutes to go.

Saints senior attackman Ryan Kelly put the near-capacity crowd on edge when he pulled the Saints

back to within one with 1:52 left.

"We held them to five goals in three quarters, and they got some of the unsettled stuff in a pretty rapid fire in the fourth," Moorhead said. "We dominated the last four minutes of the ballgame."

St. Mary's got on the scoreboard on its first shot of the game when Jones scored on a feed from McCormick after just 57 seconds.

The Crusaders, who were making their inauguralappearance in the A Conference final, answered on their first shot at 4:49 in to make it 1-1.

After winning its lone first-quarter faceoff, St. Paul's decided to put Saints goalie Chris Brown (13 saves) to an immediate test. He saved the first three but failed to get his stick on the fourth.

Trailing, 2-1, heading into the second quarter, the Saints came out and tallied two goals to regain the lead. J. D. Gattie started things off when he scooped up a loose ball and shuffled it past St. Paul's keeper Tom Keratzes. Jones then followed with an unassisted goal at the 7:57 mark to put the Saints out front, 3-2.

The Crusaders wasted no time getting back in the game as they netted two goals within a minute to take a 4-3 lead.

St. Mary's took advantage of a man-up opportunity for cross checking at 4:09, when McCormick scored on a feed from Jones.

The Saints, winners in nine of 12 first-half faceoffs, reclaimed the lead when Greg Geiger rolled inside on St. Paul's defender Michael Funk and drilled the ball into the upper left corner of the net.

St. Mary's lead was short-lived,however, as St. Paul's scored to make it anybody's game at intermission, 5-5.

"I think the players are a little crushed," Moorhead said. "Even though it was a great comeback and we got in the position towin, we wanted to win. That's why we play. I'm certainly disappointed."

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