Brother Rice Lacrosse Headed to State Finals
Warriors advance with 17-6 win in the Division 1 semifinals over Birmingham United on Wednesday night at Catholic Central.
NOVI – The Brother Rice varsity lacrosse team holds itself to a very high standard.
The Warriors are working to win their 10th straight championship. Even though they advanced to the Division 1 state finals Wednesday by beating Birmingham United 17-6 at Catholic Central High School, coach Rob Ambrose didn’t think his team played up to those standards.
“I thought we didn’t quite play our game tonight,” Ambrose said. “I’m not disrespecting them at all, but I thought we were a better team than we showed.”
Brother Rice (20-2) came out and scored three goals in the opening minutes, but towards the end of the first quarter it was Ambrose who called a timeout to let his team know he wasn’t happy with what he was seeing on the field.
“I called the timeout cause I didn’t like the way we were executing,” Ambrose said. “I didn’t like the way we were passing. Our brand of lacrosse is unselfish. We have to play an unselfish game, cause the looks are always there if you do that, and I didn’t think we were moving the ball the way we can move the ball – regardless of score.”
The Warriors would respond to their coach with two more goals in the final three minutes of the first. Danny Gorman scored at the 2:32 mark and Henry Nelson put in his second goal of the quarter with only 19.8 seconds on the clock.
“We hoped to play a little better from the start, we were a little gun shy,” Birmingham coach Burton Engel said.
Engel’s team came out in the second with a little more confidence aided by two goals in the opening minute of the quarter.
James Bertrand scored just eight seconds into the second, somehow hitting the back of the net as he was falling forward from a cross check. John Quay made it back-to-back goals with an underhanded shot off a turnover at the 11:09 mark to put Birmingham within three.
After the teams traded goals, Birmingham had a chance to get within two, but couldn’t convert a couple of key fast breaks.
“I felt like the tides were going to turn there,” Engel said. “The game of lacrosse comes down to couple inches here, couple possessions here or there at the right time. We had a couple of fast break opportunities we had where the goalie made some nice saves kind of turned the tides.”
The Warriors' defense turned up the pressure and went into lockdown mode.
It helped Brother Rice close out the first half with three unanswered goals, including back-to-back scores from Jerry Dietz and go into halftime with a 9-3 lead.
“We play aggressive defense,” Ambrose said. “We have senior defenseman and a senior goalie, out of anywhere on the field we should be able to execute on the defensive half.”
Birmingham found itself on the end of another Warriors 5-0 run in the third quarter. Riley Kennedy scored two of his four goals in the third and assisted on two others during the run to put the game out of reach.
Kennedy finished the game with four goals and four assists. Deitz and Sergio Perkovic also finished with four goals apiece.
Despite the somewhat lopsided final score, Engel was happy with the progress his program made.
“We went from being mercied in a pre-regional to being a final four team and playing a good, respectable game against Brother Rice,” Engel said. “I’m very proud of the seniors and the underclassmen – the seniors for keeping it together as we rebuilt things and the underclass has a bright future.”
Brother Rice advances to the finals for a game against Ann Arbor Pioneer on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The game will be played at Seaholm High School.
Ann Arbor Pioneer upset the No. 2 team in the state in the other semifinal on Wednesday night, 11-10. The Warriors scrimmaged Ann Arbor this season and Ambrose expects it will be a dogfight.