DAYTON — Tommy Clayton was too modest to take credit for the gigantic role he played in returning the DeSales High School boys lacrosse team to the Division II state final for the first time in six years.
The junior attacker wanted to give credit for a 15-13 win over Cincinnati Mariemont in a state semifinal May 29 at Chaminade Julienne to a senior class that saw each of its previous three seasons end in regional finals or earlier.
But with seven goals, the last of which gave DeSales breathing room with 13.7 seconds left to cap a frantic final minute, Clayton couldn’t totally downplay his role.
“We never gave up,” said Clayton, who has committed to Jacksonville University. “I was going to do whatever in my power and in my team’s power we had to do to get this win. Our seniors deserved it. I guess it was just my night.”
Carter Hilleary added three goals, including the game-winner with 1 minute, 26 seconds to play amid a scrum in front of Warriors goalkeeper Daniel Cascella, who had held the Stallions with a handful of saves on high-velocity shots during the previous five minutes as Mariemont battled back from a 9-6 halftime deficit and briefly led in the fourth quarter 13-12.
“I came around the back side and I put it in,” Hilleary said of the winning goal. “It’s kind of a blur, but it was a team effort all around. (Clayton) took some attention away, but they are not a one-person defense. I had a matchup I seemed to like and I did my thing.”
DeSales improved to 18-3 and will play Chagrin Falls or Toledo Ottawa Hills in the state final June 2 at Ohio Wesleyan. Those two teams play their state semifinal May 30.
“If you saw the look in Carter’s eyes, you knew he would make something happen,” Stallions coach Matt Triplet said. “Same with Tommy. The guys said, ‘Give us the ball, give us a chance. We’re doing this.’”
Bates Gall had three goals to lead Mariemont, which finished 18-3.
The Stallions won their only state title in 2012. They lost to Mariemont in a state semifinal the next year and had not advanced that far again until this season.