Cyclones rally to capture SCISA lacrosse title

Brink Norton/provided Porter-Gaud players celebrate after winning the state championship in lacrosse.

Heavily favored Porter-Gaud overcame a slow start and rallied late to defeat Hammond, 7-5, Tuesday night in the SCISA state lacrosse championship, completing a journey that began four years ago.

Senior Kole Burke scored four times — all in the second half — and the Cyclones overcame a 3-0 halftime deficit to cap their first-ever winning season. The Cyclones finished the season at 14-2 in beating Hammond for the third time this year.

“To know where we all started as seventh-grade rec players to now, getting to experience this feeling, it’s incredible,” said Burke, one of the team’s 11 seniors. “We worked so hard for this. Way back in ninth grade, this was a dream, but we always believed we could be here someday. It’s such a great feeling to be able to experience this with these guys. I’ll never forget this night.”

Hammond came into the finals as the two-time defending state champions and appeared primed for an upset. Samuel Miller and Michael Borden scored in the first period to give the Skyhawks a 2-0 lead and Miller’s second score, with 4:12 left in the second quarter, put Hammond on top 3-0 at the half.

Porter-Gaud failed to convert on 14 shots on goal and played out of sorts for the entire half.

“I think it was a combination of nerves and rust,” said Porter-Gaud coach David Scully. “We haven’t played in two weeks and we’ve never played in the finals. I think we pressed some in the first half. These seniors really wanted this bad and I think we got out of some things that we were trying to do.

“At halftime, I told them all we needed to do was score. I told them it was OK that Hammond had scored three times. That’s going to happen. I just felt once we broke the ice, we could take control.”

Graham Kaplan did the ice-breaking for Porter-Gaud, finding the net less than three minutes into the third quarter. Burke added his 58th goal of the season with 6:27 remaining, trimming the lead to 3-2.

Hammond answered on Miller’s third goal with 2:53 remaining and the Skyhawks carried a 4-2 advantage into the final period. That’s when Burke took over.

Burke scored twice in a two-minute span, tying the match at four with 8:31 to play. Thomas Hartsock gave the Cyclones their first lead with a goal 15 seconds later.

“We’ve been down before so we never felt any panic,” said Burke. “We are a confident team and we believe in each other. We knew we were not out of it.”

Burke added his fourth score with 3:37 remaining, giving Porter-Gaud a 6-4 lead, but Hammond answered quickly as Matt Chamberlain blistered a shot into goal with 2:54 left in the contest.

Hammond pressed hard defensively and Porter-Gaud’s Stockton Fair sealed the deal, scoring with 90 seconds left on the clock.

“I’m so proud of these young men, every one of them,” said Scully. “We’ve come so far but it’s been a difficult journey. These guys just stuck together and tonight they have been rewarded for their heart and their desire to be great.”