Though they were always within a few goals, the visiting Hoyas never led in their Class AAAAAA semifinal lacrosse game at Centennial. Every time Harrison cut into the lead, Centennial struck back, and it stayed that way until the Hoyas finally had to settle for a 13-11 loss.
“We saw Harrison early in the year, and they’re a much different team now,” said Centennial coach Bryan Wallace, who coached Lassiter’s lacrosse team in 2011. “They deserved to be here in the semifinals.”
Centennial (19-3), which began the season with a 12-5 win over Harrison, advanced to its first state championship game and will host Area 3AAAAAA rival Lambert on Saturday.
Harrison (11-10) trailed the entire game, as a result of Centennial opening the first half with three straight goals, and then the second half with another three straight. The closest the Hoyas came to tying the Knights was late in the second quarter, when they were behind 7-6.
Connor Mills intercepted a Centennial pass, which led to a Zachary Danneman shot attempt that was saved by Centennial goalkeeper Joe Delia. The Knights later scored to take a two-goal lead into the half, and Harrison trailed by two or more goals the rest of the way.
The Hoyas also played a man down a lot of the time, which didn’t help their chances, and they went through a spurt of turnovers in the first and third quarters.
“We knew they would run on us, and they did that early,” Harrison coach Jeff Meese said, “but we bounced back. Our middies started playing well and our defense stepped up. Every time we’d get a goal, they would get another one.”
Seth Cowan scored four goals to lead Harrison. Danneman finished with a hat trick, and Thomas Justusson dished out three assists. Other Harrison scorers were Justusson, Mills, Lucas Wittenberg and Artie Lewis with one each.
Harrison’s biggest chance of closing the gap came in the third quarter, when its defense finally stood its ground after allowing three Centennial goals in a 2-minute span to start the second half. But the Knights’ Zach Levy scored a breakaway goal 2 minutes into the third quarter to give Centennial its biggest lead at 11-6.
Harrison’s defense then closed the lanes, and Centennial went nearly 15 minutes without a goal.
The Knights finally broke through again with 7 minutes left to play in the game as Brendan Spence came from behind the goal to finish with 7 minutes left in the game.
Harrison’s Mitchell Barnes went on to finish with 12 saves, with 10 coming in the second half.
The Hoyas’ offense couldn’t take advantage of the play of their defense, only managing to get two goals during that stretch.
“Turnovers and penalties got us at the beginning of the year,” Meese said. “During that period of time (in the third quarter), they showed their heads.”
Once Spence broke through Harrison’s defensive barrier, Centennial held a four-goal until Harrison scored two goals late. Danneman finished a Justusson pass with 3:13 to cut it to three and scored again with 1:12 left to play when Cowan fired a shot from the top with 1:12.
Harrison had another chance to get within one goal with just over 30 seconds left, but lost the ball to Centennial, which held it to run out a big chunk of the clock.
Levy led Centennial with four goals and Nate Solomon, Austin Prescott and Alex Prescott each scored two.