The path to the title game was different for defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference lacrosse champion McDonogh this season.
No perfect run through league play like last season. No opening-round bye in the playoffs. And certainly no easy time against Monday's semifinal opponent Boys' Latin.
It was fitting that the No. 2 Eagles were in the midst of killing a second straight one-minute penalty early in the fourth quarter, clinging to a one-goal advantage when the game's biggest swing came.
All-Metro midfielder BJ Farrare broke up a pass deep in the defensive end, collected the ground ball and sprinted the length of the field. He then found Jack Sweeney, who scored the game's most important goal to give the Eagles an 11-8 win over No. 3 Boys' Latin before an announced 2,275 at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field.
Liam Powderly and Jack Parr led the Eagles's balanced attack, each finishing with two goals and two assists as the Eagles improved to 16-3 — avenging one of two league losses against the Lakers, who beat them, 10-9, in overtime April 28.
McDonogh (17-3) will have a chance to avenge its other league loss Thursday when it meets No. 1 Calvert Hall — a 12-8 winner over No. 5 Loyola Blakefield in the other semifnal — in the championship game, set for 7:30 p.m. at Homewood Field. On April 21, Calvert Hall beat the Eagles, 11-9. Boys' Latin, which got a three-goal, one assist effort from Matt Brandau, finished 13-6.
After consecutive goals from Matt Brandau cut the deficit to 9-8 with 10:49 to play, the Lakers had two man-advantage chances but couldn't break through. On the second one, Farrare and Sweeney connected for the last game-changing turn. Sweeney, Jack Simmons and Griffin Catlett all scored twice and goalie Evan Long made 11 saves.
Koby Rusell provided the Lakers with the game's first run with an all-out goal in the early going. Parked in front, he was heavily checked and lost the ball, but won the ground ball and was quick to finish to make it 1-1 with 9:47 to play in the first quarter.
It was the first of a three-goal run for the Lakes, who got goals from Konner Caplin (two goals) and Brendan Grimes for the two-goal lead after one quarter.
The Eagles weren't fazed, answering with consecutive second-quarter goals from Sweeney, Simmons, Powderly and Parr for a 5-3 advantage with 4:59 left in the half. In need of a goal to end McDonogh's run, the Lakers got one from Caplin, but the Eagles reclaimed the two-goal lead with Catlett scoring his second of the game with 20 seconds left in the half for a 6-4 lead at the break.
Now, McDonogh has a chance to avenge its other league loss against Calvert Hall – which is in the same position the Eagles were in last year with a perfect league mark.
"Losing two games in the conference was hard -- we're not really used to it," Farrare said, "But we fought through it and it's hard to beat us twice, so let's go."
Goals: M – Catlett 2, Sweeney 2, Simmons 2, Powderly 2, Parr 2, Farrare;
BL – Russell, Caplin 2, Grimes, M. Brandau 3, Ey.
Assists: M – Farrare 2, Mitchell, Powderly 3, Parr;
BL – Shilling, M. Brandau.
Saves: M – Long 11;
BL – C. Brandau 7
Half: M, 6-4