2017 GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals, Day 3, FINAL

By Christopher Lawlor

WASHINGTON – O Canada, you have a newly minted lacrosse champion and a bundle of national pride.

Hill Academy, a powerhouse program from suburban Toronto, withstood an assault from the elements and Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.) on Tuesday night to earn scholastic lacrosse’s most coveted claim entitlement: the GEICO Nationals Champion.

It took 1 hour, 50 minutes longer than expected, but the second-seeded Pride withstood a strong challenge from fourth-seeded Georgetown Prep in a 12-6 victory Tuesday night in the championship of the inaugural GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals at Catholic University’s Cardinal Stadium.

“It’s always nice to end the season with a win,” Hill Academy head coach Brodie Merrill said. “We were watching the NCAA final this weekend and hopefully one day our guys will experience the same feeling. It was a great tournament, well run and you feel like a pro. I’m very proud of this team.”

Hill Academy, which plays an exclusive schedule against U.S. teams on the road or neutral sites so it can be considered for American high school national rankings, went 15-1, including 12-straight to open the season.

All things considered, this was a North American championship and state/provincial crown all rolled into one for Hill Academy—The Pride of Canada!

Hill Academy featured talent aplenty but one stood out Tuesday.

For his efforts, Georgetown University-bound Dylan Watson was named the championship game’s Most Valuable Player after tallying four goals on five shots.

“It was a great team effort,” he said. “We struggled after some of the first delay, but we got flowing again after the second one.”

Before the GEICO Nationals, Watson was moved into the starting lineup up front when Riley Curtis (foot) was scratched following an injury. In three games, he was incorporated into the offense and developed a chemistry with his attackmen.

The final featured two lengthy lightning delays of 57 and 53 minutes as Hill Academy emerged from the second delay more charged than the lightning that lit up the sky surrounding the nation’s capital.

“During the first delay, I didn’t say much to the team; we just stayed the course. In the second, we had a better response,” Merrill said.

When play resumed in the third quarter, the Pride led 7-5 and scored five unanswered goals to put away the plucky Little Hoyas, who conclude the season at 14-6. Prep recorded the lone upset of the tournament on Monday in semifinals as they took down top-seeded IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), 13-12, in overtime.

That monumental victory for the Prep felt good but the feeling did not carry over, especially after the second lightning delay.

“There were no excuses; you can’t control the weather delays,” Prep first-year head coach Scott Urick said. “All throughout the season we showed resiliency and persistency.”

When the teams reconvened following the second lightning delay, penalties decided the eventual outcome as Hill Academy scored with a man-up and another a man-down. Leading 7-5 before the nearly hour delay, the Pride pushed the advantage to five goals at 10-5 when Watson tallied down a man at 3:06. Carter Brand’s second goal, a quick shovel shot with 27 seconds, bumped the lead to 11-5 after three.

Prep’s Gavin Lindsay opened the scoring on a carryover man-up in the third as he launched a rocket after 16 seconds but the Pride still led, 7-5.

The game’s first lightning delay occurred with 2:51 left in opening half with Hill Academy leading 7-3. After the 57-minute delay, which included with brief downpour, Prep closed out the scoring courtesy of Lindsay’s close-range strike to pull within 7-4.

The statistics were nearly even in the first half, but the Pride separated itself by sinking 7 of 20 shots and goalie Kyle Hebert, a Stony Brook recruit, stopped six shots. Prep gathered more groundballs, 21-20, but only cashed in on 1 of 3 man-ups.

The Pride’s Josh Zawada and Watson connected for a 7-3 lead with the latter at 3:03.

Jackson Luck’s second goal during a man-up dropped Prep’s deficit to 5-3 with under eight minutes left in the half.

The Pride was multidimensional in all sectors of the field.

Watson’s four-goal performance was transformative, but Brand added two goals and two assists while Keegan Khan, the star of the semifinal victory over St. Sebastian’s School (Needham, Mass.), had a goal and two helpers as did Graydon Hogg. Long-pole Lucas Snider won 7 of 17 draws filling in for injured Ohio State-bound fogo Justin Iancio (wrist). Hebert rejected seven shots in

Hill Academy wanted to put the Maryland school in the rear view mirror after one. After conceding the first goal of the game, Mike McCannell’s second marker of the period made it 3-1. Fernandez pulled one back the Little Hoyas only to have Watson and Tyson Williams bump the lead back to three at 5-2 through one quarter.

Taking a page from the semifinal victory over IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), the patient Little Hoyas struck first, using only 66 seconds when Luck fired in from 12 yards along the left wing, but a minute later McCannell’s goal cancelled out that opener.

Prep’s goalie tandem of Jack Van Slyke (four saves) and Justin Clark (three) made seven saves. Luck’s hat trick paced the attack and Lindsay added two goals and two assists for four points. The Little Hoyas won 13 of 21 draws but were outshot, 36-35, including 13-3 in the pivotal third quarter.

Hill Academy forced 16 turnovers—eight in the fourth—and scored on 1 of 3 man-ups and added another down a man.

“Our players finally got a taste of playoff lacrosse; it’s different than just playing a regular season schedule,” Merrill added.

The first faceoff was 7:06 p.m. EDT, but late in the second quarter, the referee halted play for the first of two delays that lasted 57 minutes. Another delay in the third seemed to fuel the Canadians, who will head home clutching the hardware.

The Pride is now kings of North American schoolboy lacrosse.