Palo Verde coach Gary Campo walked up and down the sideline yelling, “It’s a great day to be a Panther!” and as the seconds ticked down Saturday, his team was ready to charge the field.
But they had to put their state championship celebration on hold when the lights went out with 27.8 seconds left.
Palo Verde then waited about 25 minutes before the lights were restored, but the delay did little to dampen the Panthers’ joy of capturing their first Division 1 lacrosse title.
“We worked hard for this,” Campo said following the 17-10 victory over the Henderson Cougars. “I told these guys all season long, and we had our ups and downs, March is fun and April is fun, but you’ve got to play in May.”
Lacrosse isn’t a Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association-sanctioned sport, and some teams such as the Cougars aren’t directly affiliated with a high school.
But that didn’t matter to the roughly 1,000 people who turned out at Viper West Field to watch the state finals. And it certainly didn’t matter to the teams, who played an emotional, physical game that was chippy more than a few times.
Nerves were frayed even more when Palo Verde had to wait for the lights to come back on. Campo said he believed Henderson should have conceded since the result was essentially decided.
“If the shoe was on the other foot, I’d be home already,” Campo said.
Henderson coach Paul Parasugo defended waiting to play the final seconds.
“We earned the right to play 48 minutes,” Parasugo said, “and we were going to play those 48 minutes.”
Palo Verde (15-6) dominated from the beginning, taking a 6-1 lead late in the first quarter and an 11-3 advantage late in the second. The Cougars (16-2) made a little bit of a run in the second half, but failed to close the gap significantly.
“Once you’ve dug yourself a hole, it’s really tough to climb out of it,” Parasugo said.
Mason Garrett and Austin Collins each scored four goals for Palo Verde.
“We hit our stride at the right time and had momentum coming into this game,” Collins said.
Spring Valley completed a tremendous turnaround by capturing the lower-level Division 2 championship with a 13-7 victory over Henderson.
The Grizzlies, who began playing in 2005, went a combined 9-68 before establishing a 16-1 record this season.
“We were basically the laughing stock of lacrosse,” Spring Valley coach Matt Smith said. “We were always the team that got destroyed, and this year we played great.”
Nick Dartois and Tanner Senecal each scored four goals for Spring Valley, which took a 5-1 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.
“We’ve been the joke of lacrosse,” Dartois said. “So this really showed everybody what we’re capable of.”
Henderson finished 13-4.