After a neck-and-neck, sea-saw affair through three quarters of defensive prowess from both squads, top-seeded Palos Verdes stepped on the gas in the fourth quarter to pull away from fourth-seed Harvard Westlake for a 9-3 win and a ninth consecutive berth in the LA Championship Game.
The Sea Kings (19-2) will face No. 2 Loyola on Wednesday for the LA title, the fourth year in a row the two have faced off for the championship. PV is seeking its first trip to the LA/OC Championship Game since 2015. Loyola has won the last three LA titles.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach in a lot of championship games,” Sea Kings coach Jimmy Borell said. “It’s exciting for these kids to have an opportunity year in year out. I remind them of that. There’s a lot of really good players on other teams that don’t have an opportunity to play in these games, so it’s a matter of making the most of your opportunity.”
The poles were dancing all over the field early, with each squad holding the other to only three goals through three quarters. Ryan Wilson (1g, 1a) and Birk Swan (3g, 1a) had the three for PV, while Sultan Daniels (1g), Asher Early (1g), and Harrison Listen (1g, 1a) had tallies for the Wolverines (18-6).
“That was the best defensively we’ve played all year,” Borell said. “That was huge.”
Palos Verdes collectively played some of its best lacrosse all season in the fourth quarter, outscoring Harvard Westlake 6-0 in the frame to pull away. Swan started it, scoring unassisted at the 8:15 mark after a long Harvard Westlake possession had come up empty.
Face-off specialist Cole Clinton got hot and kept the Sea Kings rolling, finding Luc Charbonnier (1g) in transition off the ensuing draw for a 5-3 lead with 8:07 to play.
Clinton kept winning possessions — he won 9 of 15 face-offs in the game — and the Sea Kings kept capitalizing. Brad Sharp (3g) scored off a feed from Wilson to make it 6-3, then Swan posted up down low and zipped a laser pass to Jake Jellison (1g) for a rocket step-down from up top. Sharp tacked on two empty-net goals in the final three minutes when the Wolverines began double-teaming in desperation.
“Every time we play [Harvard Westlake], it’s an absolute battle, and they’re really well coached,” Borell said. “Offensively, it’s like a shooter’s mentality. We’re like ‘shooters gotta shoot,’ we’re not worried about what happened before. We’re gonna make it; we’re gonna make it; and eventually they started to go. We never really get frazzled, and unfortunately it took a little longer to get going, but we got going.”
Wolverines goalie Alex Russell had a lot to do with the Sea Kings’ shooting troubles, stopping a massive 16 shots in the game. Palos Verdes goalie Kyle McCann made eight saves for the Sea Kings and allowed only one second-half goal.
So Palos Verdes is back where it is accustomed to being and facing an opponent it has struggled to beat in the postseason.
“Loyola is our biggest rival in LA,” Borell said, “so whenever we get a chance to play them, it always seems to be on the big stage. I think the best two teams are left and we wouldn’t want it to be any other way.”
The stage is set for Wednesday at Westlake High School with the first whistle blowing at 7 p.m.