Eagles rebound from an 0-4 conference start; Greyhounds eliminated from the post-season, ending the career of head coach Brooks Matthews; MIAA A playoff seeds here


by Gary Adornato

The last day of the MIAA A Conference lacrosse season is usually reserved for traditional rivalry games and there were three long-time classics on tap Tuesday afternoon – Calvert Hall/Loyola, St. Paul’s/ Boys’ Latin and McDonogh/Gilman.

Because it would decide the league’s final playoff spot and it featured two extremely compelling story lines, Gilman’s visit to arch-rival McDonogh held the most intrigue.

On one hand, Gilman head coach Brooks Matthews, who announced that this would be his final year as the Greyhounds’ head coach prior to the season, was trying to get his club back in the playoffs one final time. On the other side, McDonogh, which has played in the last two league championship games and was ranked No. 1 nation in the preseason, was trying to complete a historic bounce back after starting its league schedule at 0-4.

Something had to give in this winner take all showdown, and it did.

The host Eagles flashed the form most expected from them in the early going and quite frankly the form they have exhibited over the last few weeks, in building an early lead and then separating from the Greyhounds with a dominant third quarter, as they prevailed, 10-7.

The Eagles led 10-3 after three quarters and withstood four fourth quarter goals by the Greyhounds, who battled to the final whistle for their retiring head coach.

Scott Cole had three goals, all in the third quarter, and a pair of assists to lead McDonogh.

Junior Scott Cole scored three goals in the decisive third quarter, and had an assist to lead the Eagles. Senior Liam Powderly had two goals and two assists and senior Matt Hilgartner had a pair of goals and one assist. In addition, senior goal keeper Evan Long turned in an excellent 10 save performance to prevent Gilman from building any momentum.

Cole needed less than a minute to turn a 4-2 halftime advantage into a a three goal bulge early in the third quarter. He scored again with 7:56 to play in the third and then converted a feed from Riley Mitchell, late in the quarter, to give McDonogh a 10-3 lead.

The speedy attackman said his squad continued to believe in themselves even when the season appeared to be slipping away.

“It feels amazing,” said Cole. “We’ve always believed in each other since we were one in the country and then we went 0-4, nothing’s changed. I can’t be more proud of these guys. I can’t wait for the playoffs with them.”

McDonogh head coach Andy Hilgartner said his team has been in sudden death situation for much of the season.

“Basically we have been in the playoffs,” said Hilgartner in reference to the fact that every game has been a must win for the Eagles since their 0-4 start. “We put ourselves in that hole.”

After falling behind 4-0, Gilman got goals Logan Paff and Dutch Furlong, late in the second quarter, to get back within two at the half. The Greyhounds also scored the only four goals of the final quarter, when the outcome was already determined. Paff finished with three goals and Furlong had two to lead the Greyhounds. Another standout for Gilman was senior Noah Klein, who kept his team alive with eight first half saves. He finished with 13 stops.

Hilgartner indicated that the early accolades and big non-league wins may have been a negative for his team.

“I thought winning those out of conference games in the beginning of the year, probably, initially was the worse thing for us,” said Hilgartner. “It inflated our sense of ourselves and, as we lost those four, that was something we could refer back to. We found strength in that and I credit all of our seniors for keeping guys doing the little things right each day. I’ve absolutely loved going out on the field every day with these guys and my biggest fear, coming in today, is that I wouldn’t have a chance to be with these guys again. Whatever happens, I am incredibly proud of our team.”

Speaking of the playoffs, McDonogh (12-4 overall) finished 6-4 in the conference, the same league record produced by Loyola and St. Paul’s, as the three teams finished tied for fourth.

Loyola (9-6 overall), which became the latest victim of the buzz saw that is top-ranked Calvert Hall, in a 16-3 loss on Tuesday, defeated both St. Paul’s and McDonogh to earn the fourth seed. St. Paul’s (10-5 overall), which fell, 8-7 in overtime, to Boys’ Latin on Tuesday, also defeated McDonogh and the Crusaders will be the fifth seed, leaving the sixth slot to McDonogh.

Boys’ Latin (11-6 overall), by virtue of its win finished 7-3 in the league and moved up to the third seed. St. Mary’s (12-5 overall) defeated Mount St. Joseph, 13-6, in its finale, completing an 8-2 league campaign, and the Saints locked down the second seed.

Gilman head coach Brooks Matthews (left), in what would be his final game, greets McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner prior to the opening face-off.

With the loss, Gilman finished 9-7 in 2019 and 4-6 in the conference, and was eliminated from the post-season, thus ending Matthews head coaching tenure with the Greyhounds.

In his typical humble fashion, Matthews did not want to focus on his disappointment about missing the playoffs in his final try. Rather, he expressed concern for his seniors.

“I feel terrible for my seniors, I will tell you that,” said an emotional Matthews, who received a handshake and hug from every player and member of this staff as well as a standing ovation of several minutes from the Gilman parents and fans on hand. “They are such a great group of seniors and I am very proud of them. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them, and then some. They’ve been great leaders, great players, and great around school. It’s so much more than just lacrosse and they’ve bought into that and one that for four years. I’m just disappointed for them that this is the end.

“This is about the relationships you build with kids and coaches, mostly for them, among their peers and teammates. The commitment they make to a sport like lacrosse around here is tremendous. There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into it.”

Hilgartner express great respect for his coaching colleague.

“Brooks Matthews has had an amazing career at Gilman,” said Hilgartner. “He has so much character in the way he leads his team. They’ve been very successful and he has done things the right way.”

Matthews finished with career record of 149-96 (.608 winning percentage) over his 15 years as head coach at Gilman. He also won MIAA A titles in 2009 and 2011.

Gilman reached the post-season in each of Matthew’s first 10 years as the head coach, but the Greyhounds have not been in the playoffs since reaching the semifinals in 2014.

Last week, Gilman announced that current Haverford Prep (PA) coach John Nostrant, who also currently serves as the Philadelphia school’s athletic director, has been hired to replace Matthews. Nostrant has been at Haverford nearly twice long as Matthews has been at Gilman, leading the Fords to 489 wins in 28 years.

Nostrant has led the Fords to two national championships (2001 and 2015) and his team is currently ranked No. 1 in Philadelphia. He played his college lacrosse at Washington College and also played indoor lacrosse on the professional level with the Philadelphia Wings and Baltimore Thunder.

Matthews will continue to teach at Gilman and plans to continue to support the lacrosse program in some capacity.

NO. 7 MCDONOGH 10, NO. 6 GILMAN 7
GIL 0 2 1 4 — 7
MCD 2 2 6 0 — 10
GOALS: GIL-Logan Paff 3, Dutch Furlong 2, Andy Andrews, William Godine; MCD-Scott Cole 3, Matt Hilgartner 2, Liam Powderly 2, Dane Swanson, Riley Mitchell, Matt McMillen.
ASSISTS: GIL-Sam King 2, Godine, Furlong; MCD-Powderly 2, Cole, M. Hilgartner, Mitchell.
SAVES: GIL-Noah Klein 13; MCD-Evan Long 10; Patrick Scarborough 1.

MIAA A CONFERENCE LACROSSE PLAYOFFS

QUARTERFINALS
(at Higher Seed)
Friday, May 10
#6 McDonogh at #3 Boys’ Latin
#5 St. Paul’s at #4 Loyola

SEMIFINALS
(at Towson University)
Tuesday, May 14
#1 Calvert Hall vs. St. Paul’s/Loyola Winner
#2 St. Mary’s vs. McDonogh/Boys’ Latin Winner

CHAMPIONSHIP
(at Towson University)
Friday, May 17