Max Baren and Nick Mietkowski have been teammates since the sixth grade and they were on the first varsity boys lacrosse team at Hunter College HS three years ago.
On Sunday afternoon, in their final game together, they led the Hawks to a first PSAL Championship Division title as Hunter upset Tottenville, 10-9, at Aviator Sports Complex.
“We needed this win,” Mietkowski said. “This was our way to go out. We were fighting until the end no matter what.”
It was a championship six years in the making for Hunter College HS coach Johnson Wong.
“We started this program six years, started as a club team,” Wong said. “It’s not every day you get a bunch of kids who have this experience. I saw it when we first started this six years ago that we did have some talent. All we needed was to get a chance, an opportunity.”
Wong said the team’s mantra all season was “one more,” and that was never more fitting than with 16.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter with second-seeded Hunter (12-2) clinging to a one-goal lead.
“I knew we had to get the ball in one of our sticks and once we did I knew the timeout was coming,” Baren said. “I knew I had to either win the ball or someone else had to. I was ready to lose and jump back on ‘D’ if I had to.”
Baren won the faceoff and Wong immediately called timeout, giving the Hawks possession in the waning seconds.
“That kid is confident in anything he does,” Wong said of Baren. “There was no doubt in my mind, in his mind that he was taking the faceoff. He just dominated. He just knew what [Francesco] D’Onofrio was going to do at the X and he handled it and was calm.”
Baren, who also scored a game-high four goals, earned game MVP honors.
“He destroyed the kid on the faceoffs, he has so much heart, he got every groundball,” Mietkowski said. “He was great today. He definitely deserved that award.”
Led by Baren and Mietkowski, an All-American attack, Hunter College never trailed despite Tottenville’s repeated comeback attempts. The Hawks led 3-0 after one quarter, 4-1 at the half and 7-3 in the third quarter. Each time top-seeded Tottenville (13-1) tried to rally, Hunter had the response.
“They’re a pretty fundamental team and I believe their program is up-and-coming so congratulations to them,” Tottenville coach Demetrios Haronitis said. “But when someone counters like that, it’s pretty frustrating.”
The Pirates, which beat the Hawks twice during the regular season, had one last chance, as Matt Della Croce, Nick DeMeo and Nick Aloise scored in the final 3:19, the last goal with 23.9 seconds remaining.
But Baren, who has played such an integral part of the team’s success, ended the game with his faceoff win.
Hunter College HS also captured a PSAL Bowl Division title three years ago, but it paled in comparison to Sunday’s monumental victory.
“It’s almost like watching your kids grow up,” Wong said. “I’m almost speechless right now. These guys are just unbelievable, the effort, the time they put in. They deserve it.”
Follow Dylan Butler on Twitter @Dylan_Butler