Brother Rice simply refuses to let it go.
The Warriors systematically raced to their 11th straight Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 boys lacrosse state championship with a convincing 16-7 victory over arch rival Catholic Central Saturday afternoon at Troy Athens High School.
Brother Rice remains the only program to have won the D-1 state crown since the MHSAA began sponsoring the sport in 2005. It marks the fifth time Rice has defeated Catholic Central in the state championship game, including last year’s lopsided 23-7 triumph.
“We have a hard work ethic here and we ask a lot of the kids and we ask for dedication and passion,” said Rice’s second-year head coach Ajay Chawla, whose team finished the year with a 19-4 overall record. “And they gave it to us this year. That’s the reason why Rice wins championships. There’s no secret short cut or no secret to success.
“Today, we just played solid defense. We didn’t put in any special schemes,” he said. “We have a very good core defense and we did a very good job of letting them play their game.”
Catholic Central head coach Dave Wilson said the Shamrocks were ready, but were plagued by turnovers.
“I give a lot of credit to the kids for their hard work, conditioning and prepping that they did to get to this game, but it just seemed like we turned it over a lot,” said CC head coach Dave Wilson. “That’s never helpful.”
Catholic Central opened the scoring three minutes into the game on a goal by senior attack Rocko Mularoni. However, Rice responded with eight straight goals over the next nine minutes.
At that point, the Shamrocks showed some life with three goals in a 35-second span to cut Rice’s lead in half at 8-4. The Warriors again rebounded, scoring twice before halftime to take a 10-4 lead into the break.
Brother Rice scored the opening goal of the second half and gradually took control. Catholic Central went scoreless in the third quarter and was outscored by a 4-3 fourth-quarter margin.
“I know they can score quick because they have a great face-off guy,” said Chawla. “They got some quick goals, but I don’t think we were ever worried. We just had to settle down a little bit. We know they play on streaks and emotions.
“We got those two goals at the end of the half which I thought were huge goals for us,” he said. “That took a little of the momentum back. Then I told our guys getting the first goal of the second half was the biggest goal of the game.”
Five players accounted for Rice’s scoring, including junior Morgan Macko with a team high five goals. Seniors Bo Pickens and John Lockwood, plus junior Riley North each scored three times. Senior attack Brendan Kennedy accounted for Rice’s other two goals.
Mularoni netted five of Catholic Central’s seven goals. Senior Zach Crawford and junior Justin Baker also scored for the Shamrocks.
“(Rocco) Mularoni is a very good player. They have a lot of good players,” said Chawla. “I guess our main goal today was to shut down (Justin) Baker and we did that. We were going to let other people score, and we were going to try and take Baker out of the offense.”
Catholic Central finished with a 16-6 record.