Weston Hardee called it “a miracle” but fans of the Heathwood Hall lacrosse team tend to believe it was just a case of the Highlanders star player delivering in the clutch.
Hardee’s two goals in a span of 48 seconds lifted Heathwood Hall to a dramatic 10-9 win over Hammond in Saturday’s SCISA championship game on the Highlanders home field. Hardee, who found the back of the net six times in all, forced the game into sudden death with a goal with 23 seconds remaining in regulation, and then tallied the title-winner 25 seconds into overtime to give Heathwood its first SCISA championship.
Hardee’s game-tying goal was a high shot that beat Skyhawks goalie Sam Gamble to the short side.
“I’d been going with low shots most of the game, so I wanted to change things up and it paid off,” said Hardee.
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In OT, Heathwood Hall won the draw to gain possession and immediately called time out. The message from coach Patrick Fitzgerald was simple and to the point – let Hardee take the ball and work his magic. He weaved expertly through the Hammond defense, worked free for a shot and scored.
“Weston’s been our guy and we gave him the green light to make something happen – either by getting a shot himself or drawing the defense to him and then dump it off to somebody open in the crease,” said Fitzgerald.
Hammond coach Jonathan Patterson knew what was coming, but the Skyhawks were powerless to alter the outcome.
“We did everything in our power to stop him or at least slow him down and force him to give up the ball, but in the end he got the goals that won the game for them,” he said. “We played as hard as we could, gave it everything we had. It just wasn’t quite enough.”
Heathwood Hall trailed 8-6 at halftime but opened the second half with goals by Hardee and Edwin Propst 15 seconds apart three minutes into the third quarter. But the Highlanders did not tally again until Hardee beat the clock after a dry spell of nearly 20 minutes.
The Skyhawks regained the lead with 10:20 remaining in the game when Charles Black, who rang up five goals, scored while his team was at a two-man disadvantage.
“We did what we wanted with the man advantage,” said Fitzgerald. “We got off a lot of shots, but we didn’t put a lot of them on the net. They got a breakout and took advantage, but my guys never stopped working, never got down. We had to overcome a lot of adversity today.”
Heathwood Hall, in fact, had the lead for a mere 45 seconds during regulation.
Robert Boyle backed Hardee with three goals. Braden Shockley, Jacob Crenshaw, Matthew Laney and Wells Mealing had the other Hammond goals.
The Highlanders, who lost to Hammond in the first SCISA title game last season, finished with a 9-3 record, while the Skyhawks closed at 9-4.