Each player on the Cardinal Gibbons boys’ lacrosse team had to accept a medal he didn’t want: A silver one.
The Crusaders didn’t know how to react after their 9-8 loss to Lake Norman in the N.C. High School Athletic Association championship game. Some players clapped softly. Others cried as they looked at the scoreboard. And then there was Pete Shammas, the Crusader’s senior goalkeeper, who appeared shocked and dejected as he stared into space.
This game proved to be a showcase of the two best teams in the state. Cardinal Gibbons (20-1) and Lake Norman (23-0) played 48 minutes of lacrosse that was full of tension.
Even when it appeared the Wildcats had won the title by taking a two-goal lead with less than a minute left, the Crusaders kept fighting.
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Midfielder Jeff Williams scored with 15 seconds left to give the Crusaders hope. Then, after Cardinal Gibbons won the faceoff, Danny Dorsett made an impressive spin move to his right to free himself for a last-second shot.
Dorsett pulled his lacrosse stick back and swung hard for the net. His shot hit the crossbar as time expired.
“It looked like a great shot,” teammate Matt Skowron said of Dorsett’s shot attempt. “It was centimeters from a goal. If we score that, who knows what happens in overtime.”
Instead, the entire Lake Norman team ran onto the field in celebration while many of the Crusaders fell to the ground in disbelief.
“You see that kind of ending all the time,” coach Mike Curatolo said. “Sometimes they just don’t go in. But Lake Norman did a great job. They finished their shots and they finished one more than us.”
Skowron, an attacker who scored two goals, said he could feel the game change after halftime. In the first half, the Crusaders showed a balanced scoring attack. Their passes deep in Lake Norman’s territory led to five goals.
“We really needed a big start after the first half, and we didn’t really get it,” Skowron said.
The execution that had helped Cardinal Gibbons take a 5-3 lead at halftime was now disrupted by a Lake Norman team that was determined to slow the game’s tempo.
The Crusaders were given an advantage twice in the fourth quarter when Lake Norman had to defend its goal with one less player on the field due to penalties. The Crusaders didn’t score on either opportunity.
Lake Norman goalkeeper C.J. Schiemer made four of his nine saves in the fourth quarter.
“(Schiemer) made some tremendous saves,” said Ben Huger, an attacker who led Cardinal Gibbons with four goals.
Lake Norman took its first lead of the second half in the fourth quarter. Attacker Austin Grassey scored first. Then John King extended the Wildcats’ lead with his goal, which came with six minutes left.
Attacker Danny Brown scored the game winner for Lake Norman with 28 seconds left.
“We knew it was going to a close game the whole time,” Huger said. “They are an awesome team. We just fell short.”