Boys Lacrosse

Finals Preview: Champs Again Favorites

June 7, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Michigan has known only one MHSAA Division 1 boys lacrosse champion, Birmingham Brother Rice. And Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central is the Division 2 power of late, with two titles in three seasons and the possibility of adding another this weekend.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern will attempt to break the Warriors' eight-season championship in the Division 1 Final at East Grand Rapids. And Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood should provide a formidable foe to Forest Hills Central as it looks to avenge a regular-season finale loss to the Rangers.

The Division 1 Final begins at 2 p.m., followed by the Division 2 Final at 4:30. Click for more information including all results from this season's tournament. Both finals also will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and broadcast on MHSAANetwork.com, and shown next week on Comcast. 

Here's a brief look at the four teams vying for titles (player statistics do not include Semifinals): 

Division 1

BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE
Record/rank: 17-5, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League Division I
Coach: Rob Ambrose, 20th season (373-45)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2012).
Best wins: 19-0 over No. 4 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 14-13 and 16-10 over No. 3 Detroit Catholic Central, 22-9 over No. 2 Clarkston in Semifinal, 13-5 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch: J.P. Forester, sr. A (66 goals, 19 assists); Graham Macko, sr. A (45 goals, 17 assists); Sergio Perkovic, sr. A/M (49 goals, 26 assists), Jason Alessi, jr. A/M (30 goals, 47 assists).  
Outlook: Brother Rice has won all eight titles since the MHSAA began sponsoring boys lacrosse and had only one scare, against rival DCC, in-state this season. The Warriors finished 3-5 against out-of-state competition facing top teams from Ohio, Indiana and Ontario.

GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN/EASTERN
Record/rank: 15-7, No. 6 at end of regular season
League finish: Third in O-K Conference Tier 1
Coach: Mark Lardieri, first season (15-7)
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up in 2011.
Best wins: 10-8 over No. 7 Grand Haven, 14-8 over No. 8 Holland West Ottawa, 13-11 over No. 4 Detroit U-D Jesuit in Regional Final, 11-10 (OT) over No. 5 South Lyon in Semifinal.
Players to watch: Bobby Pelton, soph. M; Connor Sullivan, sr. A/M; Bennett Dipzinski, sr. D. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Northern/Eastern closed with two losses (including one to Division 2 finalist Cranbrook-Kingswood), but has advanced with three straight wins of two or fewer goals. Northern/Eastern also avenged two of its regular-season losses – coming back to beat both West Ottawa and Division 2 No. 4 East Grand Rapids in their second meetings.

Division 2

BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK-KINGSWOOD
Record/rank: 16-6, No. 2 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic High School League Division II
Coach: Mat Wilson, second season (31-13)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2006, runner-up 2007.
Best wins: 16-8 over No. 9 Warren DeLaSalle, 10-8 and 8-6 (Semifinal) over No. 4 East Grand Rapids, 13-10 over No. 3 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (Regional Final), 17-5 over Division 1 No. 9 Brighton, 13-8 over Division 1 No. 6 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern.
Players to watch: Matthew Giampetroni, sr. M (67 goals, 38 assists); Taylor Ghesquiere, jr. A (54 goals, 15 assists); Johnny Wagner, soph. A (50 goals, 23 assists), Michael Langdon, soph. D.
Outlook: Half of Cranbrook-Kingswood’s losses came against top-four Division 1 teams, and another was against Norte Dame Prep – a loss the Cranes then avenged in the Regional. They’ll try to do the same now against Forest Hills Central, which beat Cranbrook-Kingswood 15-5 in the regular-season finale.   

GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS CENTRAL
Record/rank: 17-3, No.1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in O-K Conference Tier 1
Coach: Tony Quinn, seventh season (115-31)
Championship history: Division 2 champions 2012, 2010; runner-up 2008.
Best wins: 17-2 over No. 9 Warren DeLaSalle, 15-5 over No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, 22-2 over No. 10 Portage Central in Regional Semifinal, 17-4 over No. 8 Haslett/Williamston in Regional Final, 11-8 over No. 5 Detroit Country Day in Semifinal.
Players to watch: Neil Cunningham, sr. A (39 goals, 19 assists); Andrew Kransberger, jr. A (63 goals, 52 assists); Luke Gerard, sr. A (42 goals, 24 assists); Chris Bosscher, sr.  D (44 ground balls).
Outlook: In addition to beating half the top 10 in Division 2, Forest Hills Central also owns five wins over teams ranked in Division 1 at the end of the regular season – including two over Division 1 finalist Forest Hills Northern/Eastern. Those few losses came against No. 4 East Grand Rapids, Division 1 No. 1 Brother Rice and Indiana power Culver Academy. The Rangers have won 12 straight. 

PHOTO: Forest Hills Central's Neil Cunningham (left) looks to pass to a teammate during last season's Division 2 Final. He'll be among key players as his team plays for a repeat championship Saturday.