The second-seeded Wildcats earned a 13-8 win over No. 5 Huntington in the Suffolk Class B final Wednesday night at Stony Brook. SWR (17-2) won on the backs of its seniors -- Connor Drost (three goals and two assists), Mike Malave (three goals, one assist) and Tom Rotanz (three goals) -- and also the youngest member of its team.
Liam McGuire is a 7-year-old Shoreham resident who had been a fixture at Wildcats games. Then he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in January, and he wasn't able to watch his favorite team anymore.
But at halftime Wednesday, SWR had a special visitor in its locker room -- McGuire.
"To see him come in there just means this is more than a game," Drost said. "We were playing for him, and he gave us the motivation to get it done."
Drost scored on a jump shot only 58 seconds into the second half. That sparked a three-goal run that gave SWR its largest lead at 9-3. Huntington (14-5) never again came inside a four-goal deficit.
SWR coach Tom Rotanz attributed the strong second-half start to McGuire.
"We didn't think he was going to make it today," the coach said. "He's in and out of the hospital all the time. We walked in at halftime, and he was here. He means a lot to us."
On May 5, the Wildcats held a fundraiser in McGuire's honor, raising more than $20,000. They defeated Huntington that day, 11-10. Might McGuire be the team's good-luck charm?
"We keep his white helmet on the sideline with us every game; he gave it to us for good luck," coach Rotanz said.
"He's just a boy in the community who loves lacrosse. When I visited him in the hospital I said 'We have to do something. Whatever we can do to make his life better, we're going to do.'"
And, in turn, he'll do for them.
Trevor Brosco, who hadn't played a full game since April 15 because of a hamstring injury, scored two goals, and Tim Rotanz had a goal and four assists. The Wildcats will need to be at full strength for Saturday's Long Island final against defending champ Garden City.
Said coach Rotanz, jokingly: "Can't you just give me five minutes to celebrate here?"
For McGuire and the rest of the Wildcats, Wednesday night is a night that won't soon be forgotten.