Lacrosse: Previewing the semifinals

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6A-7A’s Walton, 1A-5A’s Blessed Trinity, Starr’s Mill gunning to win boys, girls championships

We are down to the semifinals, which will take place May 10-11 at the home site of a competing team. The GHSA’s universal coin toss for the round designated the bottom half of the bracket for homefield advantage in the case where like seeds meet, and it needed to be applied to six of the eight remaining matchups, with four deciding between No. 1 seeds, and two between No. 2 seeds.

Lassiter’s girls, who compete in 6A-7A’s Area 4, are the lone No. 3 seed remaining. All surviving teams are ranked.

There are three schools – 6A-7A’s Walton, and 1A-5A’s Blessed Trinity and Starr’s Mill – with both the boys and girls teams still alive that can sweep the championships. Blessed Trinity is looking to accomplish that feat for a second year in a row.

Here’s a look at the semis:

6A-7A

BOYS

No. 4 North Paulding Wolfpack (20-1; Area 5, No. 1 seed) at No. 3 Walton Raiders (18-3, A4N1)

These teams didn’t previously meet this season but have five common opponents: Lassiter, Harrison, Hillgrove, Pope and Allatoona. The Wolfpack went 4-1, losing 10-9 to Pope, with each of the five games decided by two goals or less. The Raiders also went 4-1, losing 15-14 to Harrison, and most of their wins were more lopsided in those games than those the Wolfpack played in.

No. 1 Lambert Longhorns (18-2, A6N1) at No. 7 Buford Wolves (17-3, A1N1)

These teams had six common opponents this season: Cambridge, Roswell, Centennial, Johns Creek, West Forsyth and Starr’s Mill. The Longhorns and Wolves both went 6-0 against them. This matchup contains the parity elements discussed in the preview in that the Wolves are an up-and-coming program eyeing their first title, whereas the Longhorns are a traditional power, leading all boys lacrosse programs with five state titles – including last year.

GIRLS

No. 1 Milton Eagles (18-3, A2N1) at No. 3 Walton Raiders (18-3, A4N1)

This is a matchup between two fixtures in GHSA lacrosse that could have been predicted to take place before the season started. The coin toss awarded the Raiders homefield advantage for the game, which could go a long way in helping them once again achieve something that almost never happens: beating the Eagles in the playoffs. As has been stated many times in previous posts, the Eagles have won state every season but two since 2005, when the GHSA officially began recognizing lacrosse champions.

There’s precedent for a Raiders playoff win over Milton because they beat the Eagles in 2016 to take the 6A-7A title. This will be a rematch from March 23, when the Eagles beat Walton 16-11 at home.

No. 5 Lassiter Trojans (14-6, A4N3) at No. 4 Creekview Grizzlies (18-1, A6N1)

This is a rematch from March 8, when Creekview won 15-7 at Lassiter. Given that the Grizzlies took such a decisive victory on the road, it would seem the tournament’s lone remaining No. 3 seed, the Trojans, are a long shot to win at best. However, upsets happen all the time in the playoffs, and there’s nothing separating the two teams in the rankings. Give Lassiter a puncher’s chance.

1A-5A

BOYS

No. 1 Lovett Lions (21-0, A2N1) at No. 7 Starr’s Mill Panthers (13-8, A7N1)

There’s one team remaining with a shot at an undefeated season, and that’s the top-ranked Lions. As mentioned previously in this blog, the Lions won three of the first five GHSA lacrosse titles, but the last came in 2009. Based on their April 15 meeting – the Lions beat Starr’s Mill 11-9 on the road – this could be the closest matchup of the semifinals. Once again, the Lions will have to beat the Panthers on the road, with the coin toss going against them.

The Lions have outscored their playoff competition 57-10, though none of their opponents were ranked. The Panthers beat No. 8 Woodward Academy 8-2 in the quarterfinals.

No. 6 Blessed Trinity Titans (16-5, A5N2) at No. 3 Westminster Wildcats (13-7, A2N2)

This could also be an epic nail-biter. On April 1, the Wildcats, at home, escaped with an 8-7 win over the defending champion Titans. After the Wildcats mowed through Oconee County and Benedictine in the first two rounds, winning a combined 41-4, No. 2 Wesleyan made the quarterfinals competitive, and the Wildcats won 13-8 on the road. The Titans have outscored Northgate, Decatur and No. 10 Pace Academy 50-6 in the first three rounds.

GIRLS

No. 1 Blessed Trinity Titans (20-1, A5N1) at No. 6 McIntosh Chiefs (16-4, A7N1)

The Titans are the defending champions and, if not for a 9-8 loss in a non-area game to Hillgrove on March 29, they’d still be undefeated. In the quarterfinals, they beat No. 2 Westminster 18-6. It’s hard to envision them not repeating as champions at this point, especially when considering McIntosh lost 11-10 to Westminster on March 1. However, the Chiefs played ranked teams in two of their three playoff games, beating No. 10 Holy Innocents’ 18-17 in Round 1 and No. 7 St. Pius 16-7 in Round 2.

No. 3 Northview Titans (13-8, A5N2) at No. 8 Starr’s Mill Panthers (11-10, A7N2)

Neither of these teams have records that stand out, yet here they are. Both the Titans and Panthers loaded up on top-tier competition, and they have three common opponents on the season in South Forsyth, Fellowship Christian and Lovett. They both went 2-1, both losing to South Forsyth. The Titans lost to South Forsyth 16-5 in their season opener, while the Panthers lost to them 13-12 in overtime March 21.

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