McDonogh throttles No. 2 St. Mary’s, keeps MIAA A lax playoff hopes intact; Hilgartner and Swanson record hat tricks (VIDEO HERE!)

X-Man: Gable Braun was brilliant on faceoffs for McDonogh Friday evening. The junior finished 17 of 21 as the No. 7 Eagles dominated second-ranked St. Mary’s in MIAA A lacrosse action in Owings Mills.

by Derek Toney

McDonogh School’s boys lacrosse team knows there is no margin for error after a poor start in the MIAA A Conference. The Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive with an exhilerating effort Friday evening.

No. 7 McDonogh defeated second-ranked St. Mary’s, 12-5, at John McDonogh Stadium in Owings Mills. University of Penn-bound Matt Hilgartner finished with three goals and three assists for the Eagles, and Dane Swanson recorded a hat trick.

Sparked by a virtuoso performance at the X by Gable Braun, McDonogh (9-4 overall) ran off nine unanswered goals in the opening half en route to its third straight victory in the nation’s toughest lacrosse league. The Eagles (3-4 MIAA A) sit a game behind Loyola Blakefield (4-3) for the sixth and final postseason spot with three games remaining.

McDonogh, trying to climb out of an 0-4 hole, assembled its best showing of the season in MIAA A play Friday.

“Our offense was clicking really well and that’s been lacking in past games,” said Eagles goalie Evan Long. “Our defense played great. That first goal didn’t matter. We moved past it and played great after that.”

It all started with Braun, who won 17 of 21 face-offs. The North Carolina commit claimed 11 of 12 in the opening half.

“When you’re winning face-offs at the clip that we were winning them and play discipline on the offensive end, good things are going to happen,” said McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner. “We had a lot of guys who contributed.”

Braun echoed that sentiment when asked about his dominant performance.

“It’s not just one person, it’s an unit so I thought our unit did a great job being in the right places and helping me,” Braun said.

It was all Eagles after St. Mary’s netted the opening score as the hosts rolled up eight scores in less than 10 minutes. Matt Hilgartner capped his hat trick, finishing a feed from Liam Powderly late in the first half for a 9-1 advantage.

McDonogh’s defense hounded St. Mary’s, not allowing the Annapolis squad a clean shot on goal.

“Their transition game is unbelievable,” said Andy Hilgartner. “We knew we needed a complete game and we got it.”

Garrett Nilsen scored three goals for St. Mary’s (9-5), and Johns Hopkins-bound Ian Krampf netted twice. The Saints, who netted solid road victories at St. Paul’s School and Boys’ Latin School, wasn’t competitive after the opening goal Friday.

“They jumped all over us early and their face-off guy did an unbelievable job,” said Lilly. “The ball is king and if you don’t have the ball you can’t play offense. Braun took care of that tonight.”

The loss knocked the Saints (6-2) into third-place in the MIAA A standings, a half-game behind St. Paul’s (6-1 MIAA A). St. Mary’s have head-to-head tiebreaker over St. Paul’s, Boys’ Latin School (5-2) and Gilman School (4-2).

Top-ranked and two-time reigning Calvert Hall College, which plays at Gilman Saturday afternoon, is the lone unbeaten (6-0) in the standings. The top two teams at regular season’s end will receive a bye into the MIAA A final four next month.

McDonogh likely will need to win out to get into the playoffs. The Eagles won their first six decisions, claiming the nation’s top-ranking by Inside Lacrosse before dropping its first four MIAA A matches.

“When went 6-0 non-conference that was probably the worst thing but maybe the best thing,” said Andy Hilgartner. “It was the worst thing because it kind of bullt this unrealistic set of expectations for our teams after losing 18 seniors. But now, after going 0-4 it was the best thing because we can look back to that and say ‘hey what we did do successfully against the best teams in the country,’ and that’s really kept our confidence.

We can do this, we can still perform in big games against great teams. That’s what we’re going to see in this league.”

No. 7 McDonogh 12, No. 2 St. Mary’s 5

Goals: St. Mary’s – Nilsen 3, Krampf 2, McDonogh – Hilgartner 3, Swanson 3, Mitchell 2, Cole, Ince, Lamberti, McMillen

Assists: St. Mary’s – Krampf; McDonogh – Powderly 3, Hilgartner 2, Bonkitz

Saves: St. Mary – Schmidt 11; McDonogh – Long 10

St. Mary’s 1 0 2 2 – 5

McDonogh 7 2 2 1 – 12