St. Mark’s Captures Lacrosse Title After Several Near Misses

Kellam Hall kisses the Division I state championship trophy after St. Mark's beat ESD in overtime on Sunday. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)

By DAVID McNABB/Special Contributor

PLANO — With the St. Mark’s Lions staring down yet another heartbreaking loss in the Texas High School Lacrosse League state championship game, Evan Chang-Tung came up with the biggest goal in the program’s history. And then he did it again.

The speedy Chang-Tung scored the game-tying goal with 43 seconds left in regulation and the game-winner in the third minute of overtime, securing an 8-7 victory over Episcopal School of Dallas on Sunday at Clark Stadium. St. Mark’s rallied from a 6-2 halftime deficit and trailed by a goal for more than nine minutes before Chang-Tung completed a five-goal rally to tie the score at 7-7 with less than a minute left in regulation.

“Evan is a special person and a special player,” St. Mark’s coach Hayward Lee said. “I’m not surprised he was the one who made those plays.”

Before approximately 1,200 enthusiastic spectators, St. Mark’s won its only state title despite being one of the sport’s pioneers in North Texas. Having lost to Highland Park in the 2009, 2010, and 2012 state finals, St. Mark’s (18-3) defeated the Scots, 8-4, in the semifinals on its championship path. The Lions also lost to ESD in the 2007 state finals.

“We have been to six Final Fours and five finals, but we have lost in the previous four in the final minute of very close games,” Lee said. “I didn’t want the burden of winning or losing to fall on this team. Before the game, we talked about playing the best you can against a good opponent, have fun doing it, and not making it only about whether you win or lose.”

ESD (15-7) had split two previous games with St. Mark’s. An emotional surge in the first half led the Eagles to a 6-1 lead in a barrage of accurate shots from Barrett Anigian, Richie Loftus (two goals), and Sam Romano. Freshman David Kerrigan made a scooping shot of a loose ball to give ESD a 5-1 lead to end the first period, and senior Jack Blair’s goal made it 6-1 early in the second period.

“You try to accentuate your runs and limit theirs,” Eagles coach Pat Kennedy said. “You prepare and train for a game like this. It’s the technical part of coaching and the conditioning to avoid fatigue. I’m really proud of our players.”

But just as ESD had built its momentum by aggressively picking up ground balls, winning faceoffs, and taking accurate shots, St. Mark’s remained poised by steadily closing the gap within 7-6 with a goal by sophomore Jack Fotosjek with 9:45 remaining. Sophomore Michael Fletcher had two second-half goals. Goalie Chris Roach made a dozen saves with help from a defense led by Justin Harvey that allowed only one goal in the final 27 minutes.

“We were behind, but we knew it was still early,” Chang-Tung said. “We didn’t get down. We just kept playing one possession at a time.”

With less than a minute remaining, Chang-Tung made a quick dart to the net down a right-side alley and fired off a shot past ESD freshman goalie Charlie Sikes, who made 19 saves. With the first score winning in overtime, it took just three minutes before the speedy Chang-Tung had possession about 15 yards in front of the net, and made a move similar to a step-back 3-pointer in basketball. He bounced it perfectly a few feet in front of the goal to skip up past Sikes’ hip and into the net.

“The mark of respect of a competitor is that they force the very best out of you,” Lee said. “We have a lot of respect for ESD, and they brought out the very best in us. I would have been proud of our team whether we would have won or lost.”

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