This was a classic No. 1 vs. No. 2 high school matchup.
It was No. 1 and defending Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference champion St. Paul's against No. 2 Loyola, the team with the best chance of supplanting the Crusaders as champions this season.
It was the multiscoring talents of St. Paul's senior attackman Tim Whiteley against the best shots Loyola senior defenseman Chris Ginter could hand out.
It was senior Loyola midfielder Brad Hoag at his best.
It was only early April but St. Paul's and Loyola were in midseason form yesterday when the unbeaten Crusaders held on in the closing minutes to defeat the Dons, 9-8, in an MSA A Conference Division I thriller at Loyola.
"Loyola plays lacrosse and we play lacrosse," said Whiteley, whose four goals proved to be the difference. "There were no Mickey Mouse defenses or anything like that in this game. It was man-to-man all the way."
Whiteley's father, Mitch, who is the St. Paul's coach, said: "It was like a heavyweight fight. Toe-to-toe."
Loyola coach Joe McFadden saw the game a little differently: "It was a great game for the fans, but not so great for those involved. I felt our players didn't make the right decisions at times, making it a game of missed opportunities for us."
Tim Whiteley, who said he was at only 85 percent because of a bruised thigh, scored what proved to be the winner with 4:35 left. He spun away from Ginter and bounced a shot into the net from 12 feet.
That gave St. Paul's (5-0, 4-0 in conference) a 9-7 lead, but Loyola (4-1, 3-1) answered with a goal by Bill Evans off a pass from Hoag to trim the deficit to 9-8 with 3:41 left.
Hoag led Loyola with three goals and one assist, but the Dons could not tie the score, even though they had a 30-second, man-advantage situation and two high-percentage shots by Bob Vaughan and David Gately in the final minute.
Gately hit the back of the net with 15 seconds left, after Loyola had stolen the ball from St. Paul's midfielder Craig Scornavacca with 25 seconds left near the St. Paul's goal.
Boys' Latin 9, St. Mary's 6
No. 5 St. Mary's coach Jim Moorhead wasn't pointing the finger at any of his players after watching them fall to No. 3 Boys' Latin, their second straight MSA A Conference Division I loss.
"They're so much better than us right now, there's no comparison," said Moorhead, whose team (0-2, 2-2) squandered a 5-2 lead in Friday's 7-6 loss to Calvert Hall and fell behind 8-1 yesterday. "They're totally in a different league than we are. They're way beyond us right now."
Boys' Latin (7-0, 3-0) scored four unanswered goals in the third period to break the game open as senior attackman Mark LaVerghetta began the burst with the first of his two unassisted goals. Gene Lower (three goals, one assist) and Kevin Bryan (two, two) did the rest.