Troy — Detroit Country Day has been a thorn in Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood's side, winning the past five meetings between the two teams over the past three years.
Country Day got the best of its rival once again, staving off a late Cranbrook comeback and dethroning the defending champ with a 12-8 victory in the Division 2 boys lacrosse state final Saturday afternoon at Troy Athens.
It was Country Day's first title since 2011.
“It feels good and feels even better for it to be against Cranbrook,” Country Day senior Matt Stebbins said. “We kind of blew them out earlier in the season. They prepared very well, but we came out and played little bit better.”
Country Day held a 10-5 lead in the third quarter before Cranbrook began clawing back into the game.
Taylor Ghesquiere started the rally with an unassisted goal with 3:26 left in the third.
Less than two minutes later, Matt Giampetroni scooped up a loose ball in front of the net and shoveled it past Country Day goalie Jackson White to cut it to 10-7.
Giampetroni struck again at the start of the fourth quarter, rolling to the right through the defense before launching a shot into the top right corner to trim the deficit to 10-8 with 11:48 left.
Country Day's Nick Martin ended Cranbrook's run with a huge insurance goal, racing past a defender on the right edge and bouncing a shot between the Cranbrook goalie Ryan Rosenthal's legs for an 11-8 lead with 8:07 left.
“Our guys did good job clearing the ball and found me on the right side of the field breaking,” Martin said. “Coach put in that clear a couple days before the game and we were able to execute it.”
Stebbins provided the final dagger, scoring with 3:39 remaining for a 12-8 lead.
“We got the looks we were going for, but their goalie was fantastic,” Cranbrook coach Mat Wilson said.
“Hats off to those guys. They played a fantastic game. For them to go through three different coaches and band together to show the rest of the state there are some very good teams beside (Birmingham) Brother Rice. I've coached a bunch of these guys in the summer. I'm proud of them. If I wanted to lose to anybody, it's those guys. They showed a lot of heart.”
For Country Day (17-6), the game plan was simple — limit Cranbrook's scoring duo of Giampetroni and Johnny Wagner. And while Giampetroni finished with a game-high five goals, Wagner was held scoreless.
“We had Matt Dolan on Giampetroni and Jonathon Boos on Wagner,” first-year Country Day coach Michael Cappelletti said of his two sophomore defenders. “I said, 'Hey guys, you're on an island. Limit their touches.'
“For the most part they did. Wagner had no goals and I don't think that's happened in his life. If there is a game ball, it goes to Jonathon Boos.”
The two teams exchanged goals throughout the first quarter and midway through the second until Country Day closed out the first half with four unanswered goals. Martin began the run by corralling a rebound off a blocked shot and scoring from point-blank range to put Country Day on top 4-3.
Devon Callaghan skipped a shot into the left side of the net with 4:58 left in the second and Emilio Sosa's goal doubled up Cranbrook, 6-3, a little over a minute later.
Stebbins capped Country Day's spurt with a shot through traffic to push the lead to 7-3 with 18.3 seconds left before halftime.
Country Day widened the gap in the third behind goals from Jack Bergmann and Sosa for a 9-4 cushion with under four minutes remaining before Cranbrook began mounting its comeback.
Sosa led Country Day with three goals while Stebbins, Martin, Bergmann and Callaghan all scored twice. Josh Scott dished out three assists and Jackson White made 16 saves.
Ryan Rosenthal stopped 26 shots and Taylor Ghesquiere and Charlie Pistner each finished with a goal and an assist for Cranbrook (12-9).
The final was originally scheduled to be played at East Grand Rapids, but the Michigan High School Athletic Association moved it to a closer site Thursday morning to ease the travel burden on the metro Detroit teams and their fans.
James Hawkins is a freelance writer.