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No. 1 Eagles, No. 2 Lakers set for 'one for the ages' in MIAA A Conference final

The shot in double overtime that would have won the game for the Boys' Latin lacrosse team clanked off the crossbar and ended up behind the McDonogh cage in the right corner.

A testy pack gathered and a fierce game-within-the-game was on: Who would come out of the extended scrum with the ball?

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The Eagles, who rallied from three-goal and two-goal deficits in the fourth quarter to force the extra time, got the ball and sophomore Andrew Hurdle scored shortly after. The game winner came with 28 seconds left in the second overtime.

The area's best game of the regular season took place on May 3 in Owings Mills: No. 1 McDonogh 10, No. 2 Boys' Latin 9.

Fittingly, the area's top two teams are meeting again on Friday, this time for the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship. Game time is 8 p.m. at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field.

"The regular-season game is one of the better games you're ever going to watch in high school. It was such a well-played game by both teams," first-year Boys' Latin coach Brian Farrell said. "I give a lot of credit to McDonogh for battling back. They could have folded, but they stayed true and were able to squeak out a tight one. For us, it's a loss we learned from and I think we've done a much better job in certain areas and cleaned up some stuff. So we look forward to being able to play that team again."

The numbers going into Friday's championship project a strong possibility of a special game.

The Eagles (17-1) have been ranked No. 1 the entire season and have won 12 straight games, including Monday's dominant 20-6 semifinal win over No. 3 Loyola Blakefield. They have found resolve by winning all four of their overtime games this season.

The Lakers (14-3) have won 10 of their last 11 with the overtime loss to McDonogh their only setback during the stretch to take firm hold of the No. 2 spot throughout the second half of the season. They have averaged 14.3 goals in their last six games and comfortably handled No. 4 Severn, 13-6, in the semifinal.

Counting the regular season and playoffs, the teams combined to go 19-0 against the rest of the teams in the MIAA, which is widely regarded as the toughest league in the country.

"It's happened before, but it's rare for the top two teams to run away from everybody else in our league. Maybe one team, but not two," said St. Paul's coach Rick Brocato, whose No. 5 Crusaders reached the quarterfinals. "As a fan, I'm really excited and think this is one for the ages coming up. I really do."

As for intangibles, both teams have received fine senior leadership that has set up concrete foundations. McDonogh has leaned on attackman Jackson Morrill, midfielder Barrett Sutley and defenseman Arman Medghalchi. The Lakers have attackman Logan Wisnauskas and goalie Jack Pezzulla. Strong supporting casts have followed suit.

"I think we've established a team identity and within that identity is certain fundamentals that a guy is used to hearing from the coaching staff and can focus on," McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner said.

As for what he's seen from Boys' Latin, Hilgartner said: "The thing I've been really impressed with in BL is their team chemistry and their leadership, both from Brian and his coaching staff and their seniors have really stepped up and done a great job leading. You can see it in how they play — they play really unselfish, very together and they have an enthusiasm for each other."

Boys' Latin has won four MIAA A titles in the league's first 20 years with its last coming in 2014. The Eagles, who lost to St. Mary's in last year's title game, have been knocking on the door in recent years in hopes of adding the program's third title and first since 2005.

Here's a closer look at some of the key areas that will help determine the outcome:

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The Faceoff X: Quick and crafty, Boys' Latin junior Jake Glatz has been considered the best faceoff man in the area throughout the season, but McDonogh senior Noah McCoy has athleticism and determination to win his share. In the regular-season game, Glatz had the better of things through three quarters, helping the Lakers build a 7-4 lead. But McCoy won some key draws in the fourth quarter and beyond to enable to Eagles to rally.

Wing play also will be vital in winning draws and both teams are exceptional and scrappy.

BL attack vs. McDonogh defense: As Brocato puts it, this is each team's strength vs. strength and the respective areas for both sides are playing as well as any team in the country. The Lakers' attack has been hitting on all cylinders with high skill, selfless play and a great deal of consistency. Wisnauskas (53 goals, 33 assists) is the area's most dominant attackman and junior Luke Shilling (36, 33) and sophomore Matt Brandau (30, 32) have proven to be ideal complements with each having the ability to take over games given the right matchup.

The Eagles' defense has been lauded as the best in the country since the start of the season by national publications. It's consistently fine play has supported that opinion. Medghalchi is the glue, sophomore BJ Farrare makes impact plays as a long pole midfielder and junior Brandon Shure is as steady as they come. Senior goalie Sean Lanier, a first-year starter, has worked well with the talented group and has shown a knack for making timely saves when needed.

Can Glatz give the Lakers attack the ball enough to wear down the Eagles defense?

McDonogh attack vs. BL defense: While McDonogh's defense has been receiving much of the attention for the team's success, the Eagles' attack has been balanced, patient and smart. It runs through Morrill (39, 26) but the group plays off each other well with a number of players capable of scoring an important goal.

Jack Parr (41, 12) is a pure finisher, Jason Sarro (22, 20) had the big semifinal game with four goals and one assist, and Sutley (19, 17) has produced in big moments.

The Lakers have a senior cast on defense with Andrew Murrow and Josh Lurie serving as the anchors. They've enjoyed monumental success playing a zone defense with a basic plan: Keep the shots far out with the utmost faith that Pezzulla can make the saves.

Aside from coming behind against Boys' Latin, the Eagles have mostly forged ahead in games and banked on their defense to bring home victories.

Can the Eagles pick up where they left off in the fourth quarter of the regular-season game against the Lakers?

Farrell, who won a league championship for the Lakers as a standout defenseman, put Friday's game in perspective.

"It's the MIAA championship game and it doesn't get any bigger in our state and even the country, honestly, as far as high school lacrosse," he said. "So we feel honored and fortunate to be playing in the game."

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