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The Pacers rally from two goals down in the second half to hand Jesuit its only loss.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Lakeridge senior Cody Hart raises his stick to celebrate the Pacers' 11-8 win over Jesuit in the championship of the Metro Area Tourney at Jesuit High School on Saturday, May 22.In a year like no other, after an absence like no other and facing a team like no other, the Lakeridge boys lacrosse team turned in a performance like no other.

Trailing top-seeded Jesuit by two goals in the third quarter of the Metro Area Tourney championship game — held at Jesuit High School on Saturday, May 22 — the second-seeded Pacers absolutely caught fire. Lakeridge outscored the Crusaders 7-4 down the stretch and pulled away to win 11-8 in the de facto state championship game of the pandemic-shortened 2021 season.

Regardless of the game's official title or the length of the season, the Pacers knew their victory was a big, big deal.

"It's surreal. That's all I can really say," said Lakeridge goalie Andrew Nyhus, who finished with 11 saves and two ground balls. "This is everything I've ever wanted since I was a kid and I finally got it."

"They thought they were winning, but then we showed up and they couldn't handle us," said the Pacers' Preston Stewart, who scored twice in the win. "We balled out."

"It's amazing. It's the best feeling ever," said Lakeridge's Cody Hart, who scored once against the Crusaders. "Especially after having last season taken away."

With the win — the Pacers' seventh straight — Lakeridge finished its 2021 season at 9-2 after previously finishing second in the Three Rivers League. Metro League champion Jesuit, meanwhile, lost for the first time and ended its year at 11-1.

"This was our goal ever since we started playing this year," said Jesuit's Ben Wimmer, who led all scorers with four goals on Saturday. "We've always wanted to win a state championship. That's the main goal. It sucks that we're not on top, but they came to play."

"We were just trying to play our game but the shots were not falling the way we wanted them to," added Crusader attack/midfielder Matthew Rincon, who scored twice in the loss. "We think we're the better team all around, but it wasn't our day."

Lakeridge 11, Jesuit 8

It sure looked like it was Jesuit's day early on, with the Crusaders taking a 2-0 lead on scores by Jack Duncan-Bloom and Wimmer (assisted by Aidan Conrad), Wimmer's score coming with 8 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Lakeridge rallied in the final five minutes of the period, though, with Matt Wright coming out from behind the Jesuit goal to get his team's first score and teammate Wilson Godfrey tying the game 2-2 on a drive down the right side with 23 seconds left in the quarter.

But the Crusaders posted a 2-1 edge in the second period and took a 4-3 edge into the half. Wimmer got the first of those when he took a Conrad pass and scored on a cut with 3 minutes left in the first half and — after Lakeridge's Jude Cowie angled home a shot from the left side 24 seconds later — Rincon took a pass from Coulter Bordonaro and hit an overhand shot with 1:47 left before the break.

In the third quarter, Wright hit early for Lakeridge, but Jesuit came back with a pair of goals separated by just 1:45 to push in front 6-4, the first of those on a cut by Conrad and the second a sidearm shot by Rincon assisted by Bordonaro with 7:27 remaining in the period.

The Pacers, however, absolutely dominated the rest of the way. They scored just 19 seconds after Rincon's goal when Nolan Lawler came out from behind the right side of the Jesuit net to connect, then rammed home three more goals in the final 1:34 of the quarter.

Stewart got the first those on a low shot off the fast break, Lawler made it three straight with an overhand shot from the left edge with 13 seconds left in the period, and Jake Reichle gave his team an 8-6 lead when he won the ensuing faceoff, raced down field and scored with 6 seconds to go in the quarter.

"We scored a couple of goals and we just built on it after that," said Reichle, who won 11 of 14 faceoffs in the second half. "We had way fewer unforced turnovers … our defense played as a team (and) I think we probably won most of the ground balls, too."

The two teams traded goals at the start of the fourth quarter — Lakeridge getting a Stewart score assisted by Wright and Jesuit a Wimmer goal set up by Conrad — but Reichle kept winning faceoffs, Lakeridge dominated possession and the Crusaders couldn't answer.

Cowie hit an overhand shot with 4:21 to go that made it 10-7 and Hart added his lone goal from the left side to boost the Lakeridge lead to 11-7 with 1:57 left on the clock. Conrad scored his team's last goal — assisted by Bordonaro — with 1:33 remaining, but by then, it was too little and too late.

"It feels great," Reichle said. "We came out and played as a team and did what we had to do."

"They couldn't back up their talk," Stewart said. "They can't handle us. They just stopped."

On their side of the ledger, the Crusaders said they would move forward, build on the positives of the 2021 season and come back even stronger in 2022.

"We're going to come back next year. We're going to remember this," Wimmer said. "We don't look at the bad stuff. We just keep our heads up and have that 'next play' mentality."

For the game, Wright, Lawler, Cowie and Stewart scored twice each for the Pacers. For Jesuit, it was Wimmer with three goals, and Rincon and Conrad with two each.

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