But a low-scoring affair ended with a 6-5 final in favor of Westminster, sending the Wildcats to the GSHA state championship game and ending the Bulldogs’ season a win shy of the state finals.
“It was a tough loss and it can be hard to focus on the positives at times, but as a coach I couldn’t be prouder of the way our guys competed,” said Decatur lacrosse coach Wesley Hatfield. “It was as close of a game as you are ever going to see, we had guys cramping at the end and I know our boys left nothing in the tank.”
Decatur — who got three goals from DeAngelo Watkins and one each from Simeon Johnson and Nate Wilinsky — struck first in the game when Watkins gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead in the first quarter. The Wildcats answered with a goal of their own and the two teams traded goals for the remainder of the first half, sending the match to intermission at a 4-4 tie.
“They came out with a really solid game plan, playing a sagging defense and holding the ball for two to three minutes at times on offense,” said Hatfield. “I think that made us feel a little more urgent than we needed to at times, but tied at the half, we still liked our chances.”
A defensive battle in the third quarter, both teams scored once sending the match to the fourth tied at 5-5 all before a pivotal moment swung the momentum to Westminster early in the final quarter.
“We did everything right on the first possession, turned them over and got a one-on-one with a goalie. But they saved it and scored quickly in transition,” said the Decatur coach.
The goal gave Westminster a 6-5 lead with 10 minutes to play that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Hatfield, whose team made no bones of their state championship aspirations throughout the season, said the loss hit his team hard. But the accomplishments of his 12 seniors and the contributions they made to Decatur’s program were not lost in defeat.
“These 12 seniors took us from nowhere a few years ago to one of the best programs in the state.
“They never blinked at practicing six days a week and three hours a day, and never waivered in their mission to make this program a family,” Hatfield said. “They put Decatur lacrosse on the map and it was all because of their dedication.”