Noah Howe wears No. 4 for the Corona del Mar High boys' lacrosse team. Eight minutes into the second half, his goal production matched his jersey number.
Howe recorded four key goals, turning a tight contest at home into, you guessed it, a four-goal lead. From there, No. 2-seeded CdM went on to beat No. 10 Tesoro by four goals — 10-6 — in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division boys' playoffs on Thursday.
The Sea Kings (15-1) advanced to the semifinals for the third straight season, and will play No. 3 JSerra (16-4) at Laguna Hills High on Saturday. The teams met on April 15, when CdM prevailed, 8-5, earning its second closest win of the season.
"You start getting into the county semifinals, you start throwing a lot of that out of the window," CdM Coach G.W. Mix said of seeing a familiar opponent in the postseason. "They're going to remember that [result] a lot more than we are. It benefits them a hell of a lot more than it benefits us."
The high level the Sea Kings are performing at, it probably won't make much of a difference that JSerra is seeking revenge. JSerra edged U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section defending champion St. Margaret's, 7-6, in the quarterfinals.
Mix planned to attend the contest at JSerra after the Sea Kings ripped off their ninth straight victory and held their 14th opponent to less than seven goals.
The matchup featured two of the best goalies in Southern California — CdM's Hoyt Crance and Tesoro's Gunner Garn, a junior bound for Michigan. Crance hasn't committed to a school yet, but the junior turned in another qualify effort with six saves. Five of those Crance made in the opening period, when each side scored two goals, Nino Chavez and Ben Palitz finding the back of the net for CdM, while Riley Finn and Sage DeVault scored for Tesoro (10-9).
The Sea Kings, who never trailed, went into halftime up, 4-3. Sherwin Gersten gave them the lead with a goal from the left side with 2:11 left in the first half. The hosts earned a man-up advantage with 8 seconds to go before the break, and it carried into the third period.
Corona del Mar failed to convert the first of its four man-up chances, two days after going five for five during its 12-3 win against rival Newport Harbor in the opening round. The four missed opportunities didn't hurt the Sea Kings because their No. 4 made some nice plays when it mattered in the third period.
Howe, a junior attacker, first beat Garn, who finished with 14 saves, on a rebound with 8:55 left in the third. Fifty-five seconds later, Palitz, behind the cage, found Howe, who scored again. The Palitz-to-Howe combination wasn't over. Palitz hit Howe in stride and he finished near the crease, putting CdM ahead, 8-4, with 4:15 to go in the period.
Palitz added his third assist and third goal in the fourth period, when CdM controlled possession with the help of Chad Redfearn, a midfielder who had four groundballs. Palitz hooked up with Chavez on Chavez's second goal, seconds after Palitz burned a lot of time off the clock in the fourth. Tesoro Coach Adam Miner and his staff called for stalling.
Time wasn't on Tesoro's side. The Titans also lost their faceoff specialist, Cole Spooner, early in the fourth period. Miner said Spooner dislocated his right shoulder after he fell on it. Spooner appeared to be on the receiving end of a check and slash from behind, but the referees didn't call a penalty.
"[Spooner] probably has done the best against their faceoff man of anybody all season," Miner said, referring to CdM's Jason Simaan, who won 12 of 17 faceoffs. "[Simaan's] been dominating against other people this season."
You can pretty much say the same thing about CdM, which is eyeing its fifth trip to the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division finals in six years.