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Washington State Championship Conundrum

21 - Published June 2, 2010 by in High School

Saturday night’s Washington State Championship game had a little bit of everything and enough to please all fans. It offered the inevitability of a Mercer Island vs. Bellevue matchup, the pairing most people predicted in the preseason. It had the emotion of two programs that don’t like each other, meeting for the second time in two weeks, the first meeting having created a boatload of angst and inter-school memos. It had the drama of two major lead changes, and a blown two-goal advantage late in the game parlayed into an overtime victory. And finally, it had the drama of aborted post-game handshakes and sour-grape interviews. It was quite a night for Washington Lacrosse.

Over 2,600 sat in the shadow of the Space Needle at old Memorial Stadium and watched Bellevue High overcome the defeat of a fortnight ago. They jumped out to a two goal lead, then fell behind by two goals, finally rising from the ashes to score three goals in the final five minutes, providing an overtime 8-7 victory.  The undefeated were no more.

Ryan Deal's gamewinner past Hap Giraud

For a championship game, it had more than its share of bonehead plays, starting with Bellevue’s senior Ryan Deal, who forgot his game jersey, leading his father to a $100 taxi bribe that brought the uniform to the front gate right before the Star Spangled Banner was played. Later in the game, Bellevue fumbled two clears away to an empty spot conveniently five yards in front of their own goal, which an unforgiving Mercer Island turned into scores.

But the most controversial brainfart was from the Islanders’ defenseman Connor Beckwith, who got tagged with an illegal stick penalty, forcing Mercer Island to start the overtime period man down. Bellevue’s coaching staff had noticed a suspicious pass from Beckwith’s longpole, and asked the referees for their one allotted stick check.  The stick failed the check, the flag was thrown, the penalty enforced, and although Bellevue failed to score during the one minute EMO, possession and momentum was too much for Mercer Island to withstand.  Out on the left wing Ryan Deal, he of the forgotten jersey, threw a beautiful hitch that caused MI’s defender to bite hard. Deal then ran around him and bounced the game winner past the suddenly hapless Hap Giraud, Mercer Island’s stud senior goalie.

Mercer Island Coach Ian O'Hearn awaiting results of the stick check

Sticks, helmets, gloves, and insults immediately flew into the air as Coach Baumann and Bellevue celebrated their first state championship in 19 years, and their first defeat of Mercer Island since 2002. Fans did what fans do, flooded the field as the Islanders sat stunned amongst their pre-counted, yet un-hatched chickens. Coach Ian O’Hearn, John Baumann’s teammate at Albany, refused any discussion with Bellevue coaches after the game.  In a postgame interview he was quoted as saying “I thought it was a great game, and it would have been an even better game if they had played with a little more class. (WSL.com)”

It’s a pretty damn good quote, and one that has the lacrosse community in Washington abuzz. Does O’Hearn have a point? Is it classless to ask for a stick check? Do you let the players play in the championship game, even if you know one’s not playing by the rules? Or do you follow Baumann’s logic that catching someone else cheating can’t ever be considered cheating? Many opinions are being opined, and folks are still arguing about the game days later.

Bellevue Coach John Baumann with the victorious Wolverines

Two things, however, are for sure;

Bellevue’s the state champion for 2010.

And I can’t wait for 2011.

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About the author: A longtime NW Lax observer, Barbarosa brings you a look inside the High School scene of The Evergreen State, otherwise known as Washington. Check out his other posts here.

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