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Brother Rice upsets third-ranked Hill Academy WITH PHOTO GALLERY

BIRMINGHAM – Coming into the North American Lacrosse Invitational, there was a lot of talk about a potential matchup between two of the top-ranked teams in North America.

Second-ranked Culver Academy (Indiana) and third-ranked Hill Academy (Canada) were being penciled in for a Sunday meeting, but Birmingham Brother Rice didn’t take kindly to being overlooked.

On their home turf, the Warriors made a statement by beating No. 3 Hill Academy 13-12 to set up its own meeting with Culver on Sunday.

“It was a huge win,” Brother Rice coach Ajay Chawla said. “Our guys came to play. We played with a lot of heart and a lot of poise. I am really proud of them. They don’t come to Brother Rice to play in big games, they come to Brother Rice to win big games and that is what we have to stress in this program.”

These two had met back on April 25 with Hill (13-2) picking up a 14-10 win thanks to a quick 7-0 start, but the Warriors (14-3) had confidence that they could win the rematch.

After falling behind 4-2 through one, Brother Rice scored the first three goals of the second period to take a 5-4 lead. The Warriors would push that to an 8-6 halftime lead thanks to senior Jason Alessi, who had three goals in the quarter.

“Jason is Jason and we have seen that in many games in many different sports,” Chawla said of Alessi. “When you need to win the game, you want the ball on his stick. He showed up and played very well (Saturday). He is a tremendous player and he knows that. He decided to turn it on (Saturday) and he recognized the matchup advantage he had.”

Hill regrouped at halftime and came out strong in the third, scoring the first four goals to take a 10-8 lead on Rice. However, the Warriors didn’t fold, scoring a pair of goals over the final three minutes of the period to tie the game at 10-10 entering the fourth.

“We believed that we could beat this team and every time we got down a couple of goals, we just went back to that point where we were down big in Canada and we fought back to make it a game,” Chawla said. “We understood that we could do it, and that is 90 percent of the battle.”

Alessi posted his fifth goal of the game early in the fourth to put Rice up 11-10, but Hill answered minutes later on a goal from Justin Huggins to tie the game for the sixth time.

The key goal in the contest came with 5:32 to play as Alessi was able to find a loose ball and throw it in for his sixth goal.

“In the second half (Hill) went into a zone, so we had to find something,” Alessi said. “We tried to find an opening or a gap in the defense and I was able to get in the middle of the zone sometimes. In big games, every shot counts, so you have to make the most of each opportunity.”

Brother Rice was able to hold on to the lead thanks to goalie Chris Lievois. The senior made seven saves over the final 12 minutes, many at difficult angles.

“Our goalie came up huge at the end,” Chawla said of Lievois. “When you play in any big game, you need your goalie to come up big and Chris made some unbelievable saves in that fourth period.”

Alessi assisted on an empty-net goal for John Lockwood with 39 seconds left. Hill would manage to score with 21 seconds to play, but the Warriors controlled the ball from there and counted down the final seconds to victory.

“They had a great week of practice and we practiced a lot of situations that we saw at the end of the game (Saturday),” Chawla said of his team. “We were able to execute in those situations. They played great. They did what they needed to do when they needed to do it.”

Alessi finished with six goals and four assists to lead Brother Rice while Lockwood had three goals and Joe Dudley had two.

The Warriors can make a huge case for national recognition on Sunday when they host Culver Academy at 10:30 a.m. as part of the North American Lacrosse Invitational. Culver Academy defeated Bishop Timon (Saturday) 19-1 on Saturday.

“This win is great, and we will enjoy it, but our focus needs to quickly shift to Culver,” Alessi said. “That is a great team and another great opportunity for us at home. We have to play even better (Sunday).”

Last Updated: 5/17/2014 7:28:58 PM EST


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