Cardinals Gibbons blitzed an undermanned Chapel Hill team 18-4 on Thursday night to win its second consecutive Big 8 Conference boys lacrosse championship.
The Crusaders (13-4) broke open a close game with nine second-quarter goals, including three in the final 25 seconds, to take a 12-2 halftime lead. Gibbons then put the game away with six more goals in the third quarter.
“It means a lot,” said senior Stephen Albright. “We definitely have our goals set higher, hoping to win a state championship – and next year get nationally ranked.”
Gibbons now has its eyes on the state 1A/2A/3A playoffs that begin next week. After a brutal early-season schedule tested the Crusaders, Gibbons is now playing its best lacrosse.
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“March seems a long time ago, but we got brutalized by some people in March,” coach Alex Buckley said. “We have not let these guys forget it, and I know I haven’t forgotten about it. We have been working very, very hard to recover from that, and we’re flying right now. We’re ready to go and excited to put it all on the line.”
The Tigers (10-7) also head to the playoffs, with a possible rematch with Gibbons looming. Chapel Hill coach Brent Voelkel was down to four defensemen Thursday, and then he lost face-off man Jake Johnson early in the game.
“It’s frustrating for my kids,” Voelkel said. “We were down to four defensemen. That’s not an excuse, but that’s reality. They’re a very good team, and they’re going to take care of business. They’re talented, and they’re deep.
“We’ll do the best we can with what we’ve got. We’ve got playoffs starting next week, and if we win two games, we’re back to playing them again.”
Out of bounds: The game started nearly an hour late because of a thunderstorm that rumbled through the area Thursday evening. But Gibbons has an artificial turf field that held up despite the rain, and the game was completed without incident.
Best quote: Albright’s teammates appreciate his prowess on face-offs, especially when he scores directly after winning one.
“They make me feel like I’m king of the world,” Albright said. “It’s a really great feeling having them by my side.”
Turning point: Chapel Hill’s Mike Wasson scored with three seconds left in the first quarter to cut Gibbons’ lead to 3-1. But the Crusaders put on an offensive show in the second quarter, getting goals from seven players, including two each from Albright and Mark Schachte.
Three who mattered
Stephen Albright, Gibbons: The senior Albright was terrific on face-offs, scoring both his goals after winning face-offs and sprinting into the offensive end.
“You don’t typically think of a face-off guy as maybe the best midfielder in the state – I think he’s the best midfielder in the state,” Buckley said. “He’s as valuable to us as anybody we have. When he starts getting hot, everything changes. Our defense doesn’t get tired, our offense gets to see the ball a lot. And when you get to see the ball a lot as an offensive player, you start to play looser and shots start to go more. He just makes everything happen for us.”
Mark Schachte, Gibbons: The junior scored four goals and had an assist.
Hunter Van Horn, Gibbons: Van Horn’s speed gave Chapel Hill fits. He scored a goal and had three assists.