The thought of Westminster's upset win last year was on the South Carroll Cavaliers minds when the visiting Owls rallied early in the fourth quarter last night to get within one with five minutes left.
That's when the No. 15 Cavaliers took control for good, scoring the final three goals to come away with an 11-7 win over Westminster and a guarantee of at least a share of the county title.
The Cavs (9-2, 4-0) can clinch their ninth straight county title outright with a win at Liberty on Friday or against North Carroll on May 1.
Dan Hughes found Dave Price right in front with 2:40 left to give the Cavs a 9-7 lead. A South Carroll timeout came just before.
"One of the players, Brian Eybs, brought [last year's game up]. Remember last year, remember last year, and it got us a little more focused," said South Carroll coach Jeff Alisauckas.
John Eaton had the big night offensively for the Cavaliers. He dished out four assists in the first half and scoring a big third-quarter goal after Westminster opened the second half with two straight goals to cut the Cavalier lead to 6-5.
"John's our feeder. We try to get him to control the tempo for us. Also when he's got the shot, he always has the green light to take it," Alisauckas said.
Eaton did just that in the third quarter, cranking a shot from 18 yards out at a time Westminster appeared to be taking control. The Owls (3-7) trailed 6-3 at the half before Mark Ruby scored back-toback goals in the third to get Westminster close.
"We played hard, I don't think it was an 11-7 ballgame," said Westminster coach Jim Peters. "I expected to win the game from the first whistle and every game we go into we expect to win."
The fact the Owls, who defeated South Carroll, 7-6, in the county opener last year, stayed close to the Cavaliers was something new. In their first three county games, the Cavaliers had outscored their opponents 44-8 -- including a 7-1 win at Westminster on April 13.
The Owls opened the scoring with a goal from Dave Baker (two goals, one assist) with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
With the score tied at two early in the second quarter, Dave Hare gave the Owls what turned out to be their last lead with a cannon shot from 18 yards out.