Semifinal 1 – St. John’s College vs. Georgetown Prep

By Christopher Lawlor

WASHINGTON — It was a statement game for St. John’s College (Washington) and what better stage than an appearance on national television in a prestigious national boys’ lacrosse tournament on May 30.

And for SJC’s Gavin Kelly, he carried the biggest stick and shredded a stingy with an array of rolls, dodge and laser-precise shots on target. The junior attackman clicked for five goals, including with five seconds remaining dotted the exclamation point.

The Cadets, No. 9 in the Inside Lacrosse Top 25 High School Power Boys Rankings, rode the scoring of Kelly and converted turnovers into goals during a 13-9 victory over local rivals Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.) in the semifinals of the fourth annual GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals at Catholic University’s Carlini Field.

For his efforts, Kelly was named the GEICO Player of the Game. He concluded the game with 30 goals with the championship game looming.

The game was one of third games broadcast on ESPNU. There were highlights aplenty but mostly it was the Cadets (8-0), stretching their win streak over the last two seasons to 11 games. Last year, SJC bagged three wins before COVID-19 canceled the remainder of season.

This season the Cadets were up for the challenge and never let up against an elite program located 8 miles from their Northwest District of Columbia campus.

Kelly wound up with six points, including an assist. Junior midfielder Paul Garza had two goals and one assist, junior long-stick Richard Checo handled nine groundballs and junior midfielder Jon-Luke “J.T.” Duley netted a hat trick for the victors.

Georgetown Prep controlled the final statistics, but it belied the result. Virginia-bound faceoff specialist Mac Eldridge won 22-of-26 (.846 win percentage) that kept the Little Hoyas close. They held a shots edge at 26-22 and groundballs 18-17 but committed 20 turnovers while the Cadets had 15.

Sophomore attack Colin Burns pumped in four goals in the second half, keeping the Little Hoyas within touching distance. Senior Michael Ridgway had two goals and two groundballs. Junior goalie Peter Flannery halted 11 shots.

Kelly’s fourth goal of the match gave the Cadets a 12-7 lead with 7:26 to play. Burns stuffed in a goal the near post and long-stick middie Mac Christmas, a five-star rated sophomore added another one, and Prep trailed 12-9.

Kelly’s fifth marker in the dying seconds clinched it. SJC sophomore Caleb Fyock rejected 16 shots in the crease.

Prep still had a shot to even the match in the third but failed top covert.

Prep calmed down early in the third and Burns registered a natural hat trick to keep his team within a goal. Burns’ third goal on a man-up in less a two-minute stretch kept the Little Hoyas down one.

SJC would have no part of it.

Kelly notched his hat trick, rolling away from a short stick, exploiting the mismatch. With 38 seconds left in the period, Fyock started a break, looping a feed to long-stick junior Riley Figueiras, who fired home and it was 10-7 heading into the fourth quarter. Figueiras is a Rutgers commit.

Ridgway’s second goal pulled the Little Hoyas within 6-4 only to see the Cadets double the lead at 8-4 when Haley and Kelly tallied.

Duley completed his first hat trick with back-to-goals in the final 3:21 of the first half as the Cadets went up 6-3. Prep remained close thanks to Eldridge, who won 10-of-11 draws and pulled back within a goal but Duley added two goals between 99 seconds of each other.

The Cadets held a 13-10 shots-on-goal edge and 7-5 in groundballs in the first half. Both goalies made seven saves apiece.

Finally, the Little Hoyas began playing their game in the second. Crisp passing, scooping the 50/50 groundballs, winning faceoffs from the X and running the offensive sets led to goals from Notre Dame-bound Ridgway and Hugh Mullane.

Mullaney’s 34th strike of the campaign saw the Penn recruit split two defenders with 3:42 to go.

The Cadets came out firing, neutralized Prep when they won the faceoffs and capitalized off turnovers.

Kelly, a Robert Morris recruit, scored his 26th goal with four seconds left in the first quarter to make it 4-1.

Prep’s Patrick Fitzgerald finally broke the scoring drought with 1:08 left, reducing the deficit to three goals off a man-up advantage.

In less than six minutes, SJC raced to a 3-0 lead with three different players hitting the back of the cage. Garza opened the run after 104 seconds. That was followed by an acute-angled shot from the right side off the stick of Haley and then Duley dropped in a bounce shot from the doorstep for the third marker at 6:28. The latter two goals came exactly a minute apart.

In the buildup to the GEICO National, the Little Hoyas ended a long drought after capturing the Interstate Athletic Conference championship, defeating rivals Bullis School (Potomac, Md.), 6-2, in the final on May 25. It was the first IAC crown for the Prep since 2014.

Coincidentally, Bullis was the reigning GEICO Nationals champion, winning the third event in 2019 after beating Salisbury (Conn.) School, 13-8. The 2020 GEICO Nationals was canceled over pandemic concerns.

However, No. 3 Georgetown Prep finished 12-2 with a league championship and a third appearance at the GEICO Nationals. With a young, talented roster returning the Little Hoyas will push for a fourth invitation in 2022. — Story written by Christopher Lawlor