Cherry Creek rides hot start to win 5A boys lacrosse championship

Cherry Creek boys lacrosse team champions

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

DENVER — Cherry Creek rode a hot start to win their sixth boys lacrosse championship, now the most of any program in state history.

"To end up on top, that's what we've been running at 5:30 in the morning since January for, and it just feels awesome," Senior Asher Nolting said. "The monkey is off our back finally for the season. We did our job and it feels great."

The Bruins beat defending-champion Regis Jesuit 17-8 in the Class 5A championship, their fifth title appearance of the last six seasons. 

Connor Till and Henry Gordon put Cherry Creek up 2-0 after the two teams were feeling each other out for the first minutes.

"That first goal in this game is so important. Connor Till is a great leader for us," Perry said. "He did a great job getting that first goal and breaking the ice. The other thing that was really key was the play of our goaltender. Knox Dent kept them from getting anything going. That was a big piece of it."

Patrick Roe got Regis Jesuit on the board, then Quentin Birch scored what looked to be the the tying goal.

The officials waved off the goal, and Cherry Creek took advantage of it for its 17th-straight win.

"Our team chemistry was so strong all year," Perry said. "It made our jobs as coaches really easy; we just have a great group of kids. They deserve this. They absolutely deserve this."

The Bruins scored three straight goals to take a 5-1 lead into the second quarter as Henry Savage, Alec Bildstein and Shota Kajiya all got in on the action.

Cherry Creek boys lacrosse team champions

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Maybe it was experience, maybe it was rest as Regis Jesuit played three straight days because of a postponement due to weather, or maybe Cherry Creek seized momentum on its side.

Cherry Creek lost to Regis Jesuit in last year's semifinals and this year at the beginning of the season.

"Our guys bought into the fact that you're going to lose some games once in a while," Perry said. "Embrace the gift of failure. This was the best thing that could've happened to us. All year long, we don't want that to happen again, so do this."

The Bruins were determined that this game wouldn't have the same outcome.

"Last year's semifinal loss and this year's loss the second game of the season," Nolting said. "That's been fueling us all year and our huge run. That was our big motivation and it showed on the scoreboard."

Cherry Creek appeared to be ready for the moment, although Regis Jesuit has now been to four straight boys lacrosse championships.  The Bruins have zero freshmen and two sophomores on the roster with the rest filled by upperclassmen — mostly seniors.

"No question," Perry said about the team's experience playing a role. "All year long, we were able to draw back on experience. 'Remember that time when…' or 'Remember this,' now go do this. They remembered it and knew what to do. They're a veteran group."

"With 17 seniors on this roster, we're pretty deep," Nolting said. "That showed on the field. They're a pretty young team, and that showed too. I think our senior leadership showed out tonight."

Cherry Creek rode the momentum into the second quarter as Bildstein got a goal for the Bruins after great team passing.

Nolting then ripped a goal right off the faceoff after Bildstein's goal to give Cherry Creek a 7-1 lead.

And Savage again netted one. Cherry Creek led 8-1 before Regis Jesuit could settle in.

"Bury them early," Nolting said. "Don't let them come back into the game like we did in the first matchup. We felt that we let the first one slip away and we showed tonight that we weren’t going to let this one slip away."

Jake Taylor ended the Cherry Creek run with an absolute rip for his first of two goals, but Nolting responded with his second goal of the game. 

Cherry Creek simply never allowed Regis Jesuit to build any momentum.

"When we have a faceoff guy like JT Simonton, he stops any momentum the other team has," Nolting said. "He'll win any faceoff that we need to and he won a lot of big ones tonight. That stopped pretty much all their momentum. And then we grind them down and score."

Jimmy Erickson scored 26 seconds into the third quarter to make it 10-2 Bruins.

Reed Babcock closed the lead to seven with his goal, but Nate Miller and Nolting scored to push the Cherry Creek lead to 12-3.

Nolting went one-on-one with the goalie behind the net and beat him.

Gharrity skipped one from deep, then Bildstein added his third goal and it was 14-4 after three quarters.

Birch and Grant Breeden tried to lead Regis Jesuit back into the game as he scored at the start of the fourth quarter to make it 14-6.

Perry wisely took a timeout for Cherry Creek. Erickson, Ryan Stewart and Dalton Leyden scored out of the timeout to cement the game at 17-6.

"We tried not to do too much," Perry said. "All we talked about was continue to do what we do. The result was on the field all year long. We just really were a good team."

Cherry Creek boys lacrosse team champions

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)