Brother Rice Holds Off Familiar Foe to Take Back Division 1 Title

By Drew Ellis
Special for Second Half

June 10, 2023

EAST GRAND RAPIDS – Riding the championship experience the program has built for decades, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice is back on top of Michigan Division 1 lacrosse.

Leading by just a goal with 4:47 to play, the Warriors would capitalize on their offensive opportunities and score three consecutive goals to put the Division 1 Final with Detroit Catholic Central out of reach, eventually prevailing 14-11.

“It came down to our players, and it always does in these big games,” Brother Rice coach Ajay Chawla said. “Our guys won a lot of 50/50 balls. We just had a lot of gutsy performances today. Everybody stepped up today when they needed to. It was a team win, and that is what it takes in these championship games.”

In 2022, Brother Rice (20-2) lost the MHSAA Final for just the second time in history, falling in overtime to Hartland, 11-10.

Led by 14 seniors, the Warriors displayed championship poise during the key phases of Saturday’s Final.

Polonkey works for position against. DCC’s Cal Taulbee.“Those seniors were in the locker room last year and had to listen to the (Hartland) celebration. They never forgot that,” Chawla said. “They started working the next day, and it never stopped. This day is a culmination of all that work. You could see today that they were determined not to lose that game.”

One of the seniors who made a big impact in this win was Hunter Polonkey. The midfielder was dealing with a torn meniscus in his right knee, but gutted it out and racked up three goals and three assists.

“When you are out on the field with your adrenaline rushing, you don’t feel it too much,” Polonkey said of the knee injury. “I am sure I will be feeling it later, but I wasn’t going to let that keep me from this game.”

Polonkey scored the opening goal in the second minute to give Brother Rice the initial lead, but Catholic Central (19-3) would answer with three consecutive goals to establish a 3-1 advantage, which was the largest lead the Shamrocks had in the contest. 

With momentum all on the side of Catholic Central, Polonkey fired off a desperate shot in the closing seconds of the first quarter that managed to find the net. It put the Warriors down only 3-2 after one and sparked a five-goal rally that carried into the second period. 

Polonkey would assist on two goals early in the second period and help the Warriors to a 6-3 advantage.

“Hunter Polonkey, he’s going into surgery next week. He battles out there today and just crushes it,” Chawla said.

Catholic Central would answer the Brother Rice rally with one of its own. Jack Cyrek and Lachlan Moffatt scored before halftime to make it 6-5 at the break. Sean Donahue would then start the second half with a pair of goals to put the Shamrocks up 7-6 in the third, which was their last lead.

Polonkey ended the Catholic Central run with his third goal midway through the third period. Sam Klein and Caiden Ramos followed with goals to put the Warriors back up, 9-7.

“Our guys did a good job of withstanding the runs, and that’s a big deal,” Chawla said. “That’s a real sign of character and leadership from our guys.”

Jack Cyrek (7) looks for an opening with Rice’s Robert MacMichael (28) among those defending.Catholic Central would cut its deficit to a goal three times, but the Warriors had an answer each time.

When Moffatt scored with 4:47 to play to cut the Rice lead to 11-10, the Warriors answered just 20 seconds later on a score from Johnny Kunz. 

Rice goalie Cam Sims then made a key save that opened the door for goals from Christian McNulty and Klein to lock up the title.

“Sims is a great goalie, and he’s been making big saves for us all year,” Chawla said.

Cyrek would get his fourth goal for Catholic Central with 1:20 to play, but the Shamrocks couldn’t generate any more offense after that.

“A lot of people want to be at this game, but only two can. When you get to this point, if you make a mistake, the opponent is going to take advantage of it and make you pay for it,” Detroit Catholic Central coach Dave Wilson said. “We made some mistakes down the stretch and (Brother Rice) made us pay.”

Cyrek finished with four goals and four assists for the Shamrocks, while Donahue scored four times. Catholic Central goalie Charles Graves also had a strong showing, recording 12 saves.

“Charles was seeing the ball pretty well today,” Wilson said of Graves. “Goalies need short memories, so when he gave up one he thought he should have had, it just motivated him more. He made some incredible saves today.”

Klein finished with three goals for the Warriors to go with the three for Polonkey. Sims finished with 10 saves in net.

Brother Rice has won 16 MHSAA Division 1 championships, while reaching all 18 Division 1 Finals.

“It’s a credit to our coaching staff, our parents, our kids and to the whole school,” Chawla said of the success of the lacrosse program. “It takes a lot of work from everyone, but everyone has been committed and that is what it takes to build the championship culture we have at Rice.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Brother Rice including Hunter Polonkey (14) celebrates Saturday. (Middle) Polonkey works for position against. DCC’s Cal Taulbee. (Below) Jack Cyrek (7) looks for an opening with Rice’s Robert MacMichael (28) among those defending. (Photos by Adam Sheehan/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

State Champs! Network: 2023 Lacrosse Finals Highlights

July 19, 2023


Join Sean Baligian and Greg Durham as we take a look at all of the action from the 2023 Lacrosse State Finals Congratulations to our State Champions:

Division 1 Boys - Brother Rice
Division 2 Boys - Forest Hills Central
Division 1 Girls - Brighton
Division 2 Girls - Detroit Country Day