2017 GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals, Day 2, Game 2
By Christopher Lawlor
WASHINGTON – Hill Academy (Ontario, Canada) is on the doorstep of history and completing the season with a victory in the young program’s most meaningful game.
Keegan Khan’s four-goal, three-assist effort was enough and the second-seeded Pride defeated third-seeded St. Sebastian’s School (Needham, Mass.), 12-10, Monday in the semifinals of the inaugural GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals at Catholic University’s Cardinal Stadium.
With the victory, the Pride (13-1) will face fourth-seeded Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.) in the GEICO Nationals final Tuesday night at 7 p.m. EDT on ESPNU. Prep knocked off No. 1 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), 13-12, in overtime. It cancelled out the dream matchup between the top two seeds but sets up a Canadian powerhouse against one of the nation’s most storied programs, which will likely bring another enthusiast crowd from suburban Maryland.
“Playing in a championship game is always special,” Khan said.
It sets up an interesting final as both head coaches have Georgetown University roots. Scott Urick, a graduate of the Jesuit university, coached Hill Academy’s Brodie Merrill on the Hilltop. Both carved out stellar collegiate careers and were selected All America.
“Scott was a really a positive coach and I consider him my coaching mentor,” Hill Academy head coach Merrill said of when Urick assisted his father at Georgetown University.
However the semifinal game brought a different storyline with Hill Academy looking to plug a hole created by injury but generating enough defensive pressure to generate havoc.
The Pride finally put away the Arrows in the fourth quarter but lost fogo Justin Inacio to an apparent wrist injury sustained in the first half. With the Ohio State-bound Inacio taking the draws, he won 11 of 12 but without him the Arrows captured 10 of 11, allowing them to remain in the game.
“They kept the pressure so the credit goes to them [Hill Academy],” St. Sebastian’s first-year head coach Adam White said. “We played a bit scrambled in the third quarter and being down a couple of goal changes your mentality.”
Josh Zawada, the star of the opening round win over Lawrenceville (N.J.) School on Sunday, gave the Pride breathing room at 12-9 with 6:18 remaining in the contest.
Whenever St. Sebastian’s (17-3) made a run, the Pride had an answer.
In the third, Dyson Williams’ two goals and Zach Young’s scoop of a loose ball neat midfield and dead-on sprint at cage and quick finish helped build the four-goal cushion at 11-7 with less than four minutes. Hill Academy settled for an 11-9 lead after three as John Piatelli and Peter Rowe added late markers for the Arrows to close the gap.
The game was knotted at 3 through one quarter when the Canadians seized command. Khan’s scored with 13 second remaining in the second, a disheartening goal for the Arrows, as Hill Academy carried an 8-5 lead into halftime.
“Yesterday [Sunday] we had Keegan [Khan] in the midfield but today we moved him back to the attack his natural position. He really stepped up after going back,” Merrill said.
When Dylan Watson tallied from Graydon Hogg at 7:34 of the first it was 3-1. The Arrows evened the score as Michael Swirbalus and Brian Piatelli provided markers.
Parker Joyce’s goal early in the second gave St. Sebastian’s a temporary 4-3 lead before the Pride netted the next four goals, capped by Khan’s fourth goal of the game.
Khan’s output paced both offense and Swirbalus had two for the Arrows. Hill Academy controlled the draws, winning 11 of 15 and made all six clearances in opening 24 minutes.
St. Sebastian’s had chance and held a 43-35 edge in shots but couldn’t convert in the second half and only led briefly in the second period.
John Piatelli and Joyce concluded brilliant four-year career with two goals apiece and goalies Alex Gainey (11 saves) and Mac Fotiades combined for 14 saves in the setback.
The Pride had the big night from Khan (seven points), but Williams scored three times and Zawada added a goal and assist. Brad Dobson came off the bench to make 10 saves in goal.
With a second straight win the book, Teddy Leggett thinks the finals will feature a national pride on display.
“I get it. The game will be Canada against the U.S. There will be national pride on the line,” said the Lehigh-bound defenseman.