CHARLESTON - Wheeling Central's dream lacrosse season came up one victory shy of a state championship Saturday as University knocked off the Maroon Knights, 14-6, in the finals held at Trace Fork Soccer Complex.
The Maroon Knights, trying to avenge their only in-state loss during the regular season, jumped out to a two-goal early advantage before the defending state champion Hawks scored five unanswered goals to take a lead they would never relinquish.
"I am so proud of this group of kids. They put their heart and soul out there," Central Coach Kevin Maloney said. "Take nothing away from University, they are a very good team and did what they needed to do."
Combining goals from Ben Duplaga, Michael Tighe and Josh Pawloski, as well as an aggressive defense, helped the Knights grab a 3-2 first quarter lead.
"We came out with a solid game plan, but then we lost focus a bit and made a few mistakes," Maloney said.
University capitalized, outscoring Central 5-1 in the second period to take a 7-4 halftime lead. Keying the Hawks' spree was Grant Thompson, who notched a hat trick in the period while Tighe scored the Knights' lone goal.
The Hawks padded their lead with five goals in the third period to take a 12-4 lead.
"We may have tired a little," Maloney noted.
In the fourth period, freshman Seth Carenbauer tallied two goals for the Maroon Knights. Tighe also had two goals in the final while Pawloski and Duplaga had one each.
Thompson, named the game's Most Valuable Player, led University with five goals while Jacob Snider added a hat trick.
The championship was the final game for seven Central seniors - Pawloski, Tighe, goalie Chadd Robrecht, Joey John, Justin Leonard, Thomas Stanley and Gage Siebieda.
"Each year as a head coach, it gets harder and harder to say goodbye to these kids. This group is probably the best I've been a part of and they've done more to succeed," Maloney said. "We may not have won on the scoreboard, but if these kids take the effort forward in their lives that's a win to me."