As the final seconds ticked off at the seventh annual James Griffin Memorial Lacrosse Tournament Saturday, Northeast goalie Steve Gorski threw his stick in the air and thrust both arms triumphantly.
The stick had barely touched the ground when Gorski hustled over to retrieve it. He wasn't taking any chances with a piece of equipment that had been so good to him that night.
Gorski, a 6-foot-3 senior, stopped 25 shots to lead his team overEaston, 5-2, in the championship game at Northeast. He allowed just one goal before being replaced with a minute left and the outcome no longer in doubt.
"He rose to the occasion and stuffed them from point-blank," said Eagles coach Kevin Buckley, whose team also won the tournament two years ago. "Our defense does a decent job of preventing most breakdowns, but when it does break down, he's like having a great eraser. He can cover up a lot of mistakes."
Gorski's only mistake would have been letting someone walk off with his stick, though one gets the feeling he could have protected the goal with a fly-swatter the last two games.
He made 14 saves against Chesapeake in a 10-9 double-overtime win in Thursday's semifinals, avenging a loss to the Cougars in last year's finals. And Saturday's performance was nothing short of brilliant.
"He's the best, no doubt about it," Buckley said. "I thought he was second best last year to (North County's Tim) McGeeney. Week in and week out, he consistently plays like this."
His best save came with 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining and Eastonat a two-man advantage. The Warriors' Mark Prossner, who assisted onhis team's initial goal midway through the second quarter, found himself one-on-one with Gorski. Coming to a stop just a few yards out onthe right side, he faked three times before unleashing a shot that Gorski somehow deflected.
And so it went for an Easton team that brought a 5-2 record into the tournament and had beaten Glen Burnie, 12-4, in Thursday's other semifinal.
"They're a good ballclub," saidBuckley, whose Eagles are 5-6 and in the hunt for a playoff berth. "They showed us some things Thursday and I was sufficiently scared of their offensive capabilities."
Easton didn't show much offense early, falling behind, 3-0, in the first quarter on goals from seniors Charles Hoffman and Tony Petraglia and junior Alan Grunder. Hoffman and Petraglia also had assists during the quarter, which ended with Northeast holding a 9-3 advantage in shots.
That would soon change, however, and by game's end, the Warriors had outshot the Eagles, 35-20. But it was Northeast that came away with the much-coveted championship.
"This mean so much to us," said Hoffman, who scored the game-winner Thursday and had two goals against Easton. "We don't really win a lot, and we feel really good when we win around here."
"The way we came back against Chesapeake shows this team's grown a lot," Gorski said.
Buckley said, "It's our tournament, it's on our turf andwe don't want somebody else walking into our backyard and taking it."
He also welcomed the chance Saturday to have his Class 2A Eaglesplay a school "more our size."
"We do that maybe twice a year, and the rest of the time, we're playing against big 4A schools," he said. "We don't usually get the chance to play against teams that are our size, our enrollment, our talent level. We get up for it because weknow it's going to be a competitive game.
"We may not walk away with too many trophies, so this is one chance for us to walk away withone."
Northeast's last goal was scored by junior midfielder SteveLouck with two seconds remaining in the third quarter. Easton's goals came from seniors Danny Morris and Bo Manuel.
In the consolationgame, seniors Dean Coccia and Steve Kopp scored twice each to lead Chesapeake (5-4) over winless Glen Burnie, 6-2.
Juniors Jason Emoryand David Wheelock added one goal apiece for the Cougars. Juniors Joe Tostanoski and Eddie Santiago scored for the Gophers (0-9).