Washington State Championship Conundrum


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.

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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Noted West Coast lacrosse consumer, Barbarosa brings you a look at the game in The Evergreen State, otherwise known as Washington, as well as the occasional biting commentary about all aspects of the lax community. He never played the game, but that doesn't stop him from having a loud opinion or two.


  1. Absolutely allowable, if the d-man gets a crucial GB to win the game because no one can get it out of his stick, is that a classy act? You gotta know if your players are playing with illegal sticks, don't blame the other coach

  2. Of course it’s allowed! I think that coaches do not utilize their stick checks enough. Especially on defenseman, in my opinion they are more likely to have illegal sticks because they hardly get checked. I think the MI coach may be a little pissed that he got out coached. If anything was classless it was his comments after the game.

    • in case you didn't know the face off is the most important part in an OT game. Bauman calling a stick check to get possession of the ball shows he had no faith in his team to win the game on their own. Beckwith did nothing all game. It indeed was a gutless and classless move by Bellevue and i mean hey, if they are happy to win the championship like that then that is also low. i mean i would never want to win knowing we needed help.

      • That's possible, but it probably shows that he thought the other guy was cheating all game, and so maybe he was holding that stick check card for the right time…brilliant timing if you ask me…I'm sure Bellevue is glad to know that they didn't need an illegal stick to win

      • “i mean i would never want to win knowing we needed help.”
        You don't consider using an illegal stick needing help? I would never want to win knowing we had to cheat.

        They're called “Rules,” and they exist for a reason – to keep the playing field level. A team with illegal sticks has a significant advantage over a team without, and in the championship game of all games, more emphasis should be placed on these types of violations to make sure that all conditions are fair. Somebody broke the rules because they just couldn't play within them (is it really that hard to play with a legal stick?), and it cost them.

      • bellevue won over 60% of the faceoffs that night, so if baumann was playing the odds he wouldve let the faceoff occur naturally. if the MI players didnt get psyched out by the ref call, they might have held ground better in OT. gotta give credit to MI coach for not seeing the bad stick (which is so obvious in several plays) and for reacting in a way to upset his players. oh yeah, he called a stick check too- kind of desperate panicy thing, but he called one.

    • Ironically, this same situation happened to Mercer Island three years ago during another State Championship game. The stick check was called just after Mercer scored, resulting in the score being nullified. Certainly if the opposing team's coach can see that there is an illegal stick, the offending team's coach should be able to as well?

  3. Three things.

    1. Awesome game. I feel ashamed for living in Seattle and not witnessing it.

    2. Stick checks are a great tool that has been provided to coaches. Good ones use them wisely.

    3. I'm almost positive the coach was referring to other unseen game situations to refer to the team as classless. Even he in defeat must understand that stick checks are a tool. Regardless – when playing in and then losing the state championship – probably a bad time to air grievances.

    Huge congrats to Bellevue – gotta freaking love this game!!

  4. The quote was first published at WestSideLax.com.


    If you are going to take quotes off our web site, please give proper attribution. Ian O'Hearn told WestSideLax.com….and then the quote. You are currently stealing our intellectual property. Please give credit where credit is due.

    Feel free to call me at 858-952-3277 if you have any questions.

    Nathan Max
    Executive Editor