SECTION CHAMPS: Grizzlies claim first D1 title in school history
John MacLeane’s resume is finally complete.
Granite Bay’s veteran coach completed his 40th season this past weekend after capturing his 31st league championship this year and his fifth section title Saturday night at the Roseville Aquatics Complex as his team defeated Davis, 8-6, in the finals.
The victory was the first Division I championship for MacLeane and the Grizzlies after four D2 titles in 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2009. The victory also helps Granite Bay move into fifth place all-time in the section with five titles.
MacLeane, who took over the program in its second season after spending a number of years at Casa Roble and Oakmont, plans to retire this offseason, but he wanted to finish his career on top.
“It’s really unbelievable — you work so hard, but there’s no guarantee (you’ll end with a win) and you’re facing a Davis team that we haven’t been able to get past in recent years,” Coach MacLeane acknowledged. “We knew they were tough, we knew we had to stop their counter attack, which we had difficulties doing, but in the half court they couldn’t score on us. Our defense was strong and Connor MacDonald was huge for us — he really had the game of a lifetime.”
MacDonald racked up a number of eye-popping saves in the cage, including a few tough, one-handed snags to keep the game close. Meanwhile, fellow senior Logan Swanson registered one of his best offensive performances of his career as he scored six of Granite Bay’s eight goals.
“It’s just unreal,” Swanson acknowledged after the win. “We’ve been working for four years for this and to come in to this game, play like we did — coming out and playing in the dominant fashion we did — it feels really good. It’s worth all of that work we put in.”
Swanson matched Davis’ Daniel Alvarez goal for goal throughout Saturday’s championship game, but his two fourth quarter scores helped tie the game at 6-all before adding an insurance goal with just over a minute left in regulation.
“It was really a team effort,” Swanson explained. “I was able to get the ball from my teammates when I needed it and I was able to put shots away when I saw an opening.”
En route to his six goals, Swanson took advantage of a number of counter attacks and was counted on to finish when the shot clock wound down. He had his team’s first three goals through the first 12 minutes of action and missed just two shots all night.
“We just told Logan, ‘You’re in that rare state where everything just goes your way, so we’re just going to feed you the ball and you just go,’” MacLeane explained. “Logan is one of our best scorers and one of the best finishers we have on the team. But he really worked on putting himself in scoring situations and he had that I will not be denied mentality.”
Swanson was joined by fellow senior Brett Harriman and junior Tyler Boyer in the scoring column as both added a goal apiece. That included Harriman’s go-ahead goal in the fourth quarter after Swanson tied the game with his fifth goal of the game.
“We told the boys, ‘We have made a living all season long on winning the fourth quarter,’” MacLeane described. “All we had to do was win the fourth quarter. We knew how they were going to try and beat us, but we just had to calm down but stay aggressive — it’s a fine line.”
Even though it was the biggest game of their prep careers, the championship atmosphere didn’t affect the Grizzlies much.
The team, which lost, 13-5, to Davis in the 2012 section championship was revamped. The defense was stronger, the offense produced a handful of big outings throughout the year and the Grizzlies boasted two of the top goalies in the section in Joey MacLeane and MacDonald, who played 21 of 28 minutes in the game and finished with nine saves and six steals on the defensive end.
“Our press defense was just locked down,” MacDonald explained. “We were hitting the high lanes in the passing, which allowed only outside shots that were easy to block, and then we had solid shot-blocking from all the guys, which was really helpful for me.”
Saturday’s 8-6 win marks No. 28 for the program this season compared to just two losses. It also avenged an earlier 9-8 loss to Davis back in late September — the team’s last loss of the season.
Thanks to outstanding play from the 10 seniors on the team, the Grizzlies finished the year on a 17-game win streak, ending with the most important win of them all.
“This is four years in the making,” MacDonald admitted. “It’s a long time for this one game, but I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder to achieve a goal like this in my life. All of those morning swim sessions, the practices, the work we put in throughout the year, it all came down to this one game and it feels great to bring home the title.”