For the first 36 minutes of Sunday's Group 5A boys lacrosse championship, it appeared Albemarle's dream of winning its first state title would come up just short.
The Patriots trailed Loudoun County 8-6 with just one quarter left to play. That's when senior Matt Crist, as he's done all season, put the Patriots on his back and willed his team to overtime, where fellow senior Kevin Bernardino scored the game-winner with just four seconds on the clock, giving Albemarle the 11-10 win and its first state championship in program history.
"It's a tremendous group of lacrosse players, but they're great kids," head coach Dave King said after the game. "Whether we won the state championship or just had a practice, they're fun to be with. That's what being here is about."
Crist led the Patriots with six goals, three in the final 12 minutes, in his AHS farewell. Zac Willis add a pair, and Ian Davis, Justin Moran and Bernardino chipped in with one apiece, none bigger than Bernardino's clincher.
"I checked the clock and saw the time was running down and just tried to make a play to help the team," Bernardino explained. "The defense and (Crist) and plenty of other guys on offense carried us all game. I was just lucky enough to make the play at the end."
Bernardino's game-winner came after both teams had chances in the four-minute overtime period but were turned away. A Loudoun County turnover gave AHS the ball with time running down. Bernardino picked up a groundball behind the goal, circled in front and fired home the winner.
"Kevin did what Kevin's been doing all season," King said. "He picked up a loose ball behind the cage and that's a senior who made a play. And that sums up that game and probably the whole season for that group of players."
After getting the first score just two minutes into the game on an errant Raiders' clear in front of the goal, Albemarle didn't see the lead again until Bernardino's score.
They trailed 2-1 after one quarter, 5-3 at the half and 8-6 after three. Though he had already piled up a hat trick, Crist was harassed all afternoon by Rutgers-bound Loudoun County defenseman Michael Rexrode.
With the Patriots season down to its final 12 minutes and down a pair on the scoreboard, King and his staff devised a plan to free Crist from Rexrode for more opportunities.
It worked, as the senior notched a trio of goals in the fourth, first cutting the deficit to 8-7 early in the fourth, then tying it at 8-8 less than a minute later. His third tied the game at 10-10 with under three minutes to play in regulation, ultimately sending the contest into overtime.
Crist's effort in the state championship left his head coach in awe.
"What you saw from Matt Crist has to be one of the best performances in the history of the state championship game," King said. "Going into the fourth quarter the gameplan was simple. Get the ball to Matt Crist. The guys just delivers, time and time again."
"We were trying to get a switch off (Rexrode) because he was honestly dominating me for three quarters," Crist said. "I was able to make a play but that's just Coach King devising a great gameplan."
A great gameplan that led to Albemarle bringing home its first state championship.
"All year we've come back for many games," Bernardino said. "It was the same thing, we were confident in each other, we believe in each other, we trusted one another. Luckily we had the right plays at the right time and we were able to come out with a win."
"I think we have so many guys that just know how to win," Crist added. "It's all inside at this point in the season. We had so many guys that wanted it so bad, from February to today. This is what we're working for."