The South River and C. Milton Wright girls lacrosse teams were pretty well matched in the Class 4A-3A final, but the Seahawks had two things the Mustangs did not — Brooke Griffin and Kelsea Donnelly.
Griffin got the No. 3 Seahawks off to a hot start and Donnelly closed it out with three saves against free-position shots in the final 3:20 to preserve a 12-10 victory for their first state championship Tuesday night at UMBC Stadium.
After Griffin's 100th goal of the season gave the Seahawks (17-2) a 9-2 lead late in the first half, the No. 15 Mustangs began chipping away, eventually scoring the last three goals of the game to pull within 12-10 on Taylor Kuzma's goal with 4:50 to go.
Donnelly, a junior who finished with 10 saves, then took over, stopping those free-position shots. Mustangs coach Brent Ritz gave credit to the entire Seahawks defense, led by Natalie Glanell.
"I think their defense is great the last second in really putting a lot of pressure on you to change your shot a little bit, and I felt like that altered the shots," Ritz said.
At the other end of the field, Griffin, who finished with six goals and two assists, used a quick first step and sleight-of-hand stickwork to frustrate the Mustangs' defense on the crease early on. She opened the game with a four-goal run, scoring twice and feeding Mary Milligan twice, but the Mustangs adjusted to her style and did a better job of anticipating her moves.
"We came out with the momentum so they had to change to us. That's what we wanted from the start, so their attack had to change to us and their defense had to change to us," said Griffin, who had 29 goals and 16 assists in five playoff games.
After Griffin scored the 12th goal with 8:26 to go, Kuzma scored twice and Kaitlan Moynihan once to boost the Mustangs within 12-10, but they could get no closer.
While it was the first state title for the Seahawks, it was the second for coach Kim McNemar, who guided Catonsville to the 2A-1A title in 1996.
"I feel this team is so special," McNemar said. "The first one was great, but we have had to beat so many good teams to get here and I think it is more rewarding. I always said to them, 'You have to beat the best to be the best,' and that is honestly what we did."