Mount Hebron's boys lacrosse team, powered by a seven-goal, third-quarter outburst, turned back stubborn Hammond and moved one step closer to its second consecutive state title with a 15-11 victory yesterday in the Class 1A/2A Region I championship game at Hebron.
The Vikings (14-2), who are trying to win their third state championship under fifth-year coach Warren Michael, move on to the state semifinals Saturday at UMBC. Hebron will play the winner of last night's Fallston-North Harford Region IV final (past the Howard County Sun's deadline). Game time is tentatively set for 5 p.m.
Hebron found the Golden Bears (9-5) to be a much tougher opponent than the one the Vikings drilled, 11-5, during the regular season. The Bears led three times early in the game, came back from a three-goal deficit to tie the Vikings, 6-6, early in the third period and got a game-high seven goals from senior attackman Keith Chance.
But the Vikings won their 12th straight game by countering in typical fashion -- with clutch defense, an evenly spread attack and an outstanding transition game.
Eight players scored for Hebron. Andrew Ballinger led the way with four goals and one assist. Jason Vettori added two goals and two assists. Clay Shifflet scored two goals and added one assist. Doug Smith, Andrew Ward, Greg Toney, Blair Hill and Tom Huppmann each scored one goal.
Tom Lea added two goals and two assists for Hammond. Jesse Adami had a goal and two assists. Steve Marucci scored one goal and had one assist.
Hammond sent the Vikings an early message by taking leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 on goals by Lea (two) and Adami. Ward then tied the game at 3-3 early in the second period off a feed by Vettori, starting a four-goal run by the Vikings, who took a 6-3 lead with 5:13 left in the half and appeared to be taking control.
PD But with six seconds left in the half, Chance -- who had lost an
individual with battle defenseman Scott Wilhelm for the entire first half to that point -- slipped around Wilhelm and made a difficult ground ball shot to pull Hammond to within 6-4 at intermission.
Chance then scored the first two goals of the third quarter to tie the score at 6-6 with 6:37 to go in the third quarter.
And as quickly as Hammond made a contest of it, the Vikings put the game away. Ballinger broke the tie at 5:41 on a shot that bounced off the right pipe, hit Hammond defenseman Shane Cunningham and landed in the Bears' goal. Ballinger then scored again 25 seconds later off a perfect pass from Scott Baughman.
Vettori created the next goal with a slick dodge of Hammond midfielder Eric Brown. Three steps later, Vettori scored from on top of the crease to make it 9-6 with 3:21 left in the period. Toney made it 10-6 a a minute later.
Chance and Marucci pulled Hammond to within 10-8 with 49 seconds to go, but the Vikings zapped any hope for the Bears by scoring three goals in the final 35 seconds. Hill, Shifflet and Smith gave the Vikings an insurmountable 13-8 lead at the end of the period.