It was an opportunity that was almost lost. The 6-on-5 score came on the heels of a Gators timeout to set a play following the Mater Dei exclusion. But just prior to SHP working the ball around to Tsotadze, a tipped pass flew into the corner, leading to a mad scramble. SHP senior Bear Weigle was first to the ball, though, chasing it down quickly and allowing SHP to set up its perimeter with 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock.
“That’s the last thing I’m trying to preach to these guys,” Kreutzkamp said. “I was like: ‘Look, down the stretch just hustle. Just outwork them.’ And it was a hustle play, into a great shot, but we’re not there if [Weigle] doesn’t get that rebound.”
With the Gators up 6-5, the final three minutes were ruled by Price.
Mater Dei senior Vince Merk missed off the wing with 49 seconds to go. But Mater Dei stole the ball back with 24 seconds to play to set up one last look. The Monarchs earned two attempts on their final possession, including a save by Price, followed by a shot that sailed wide with seven seconds to go to all but seal the SHP win.
Price finished the game with nine saves.
“If you have a good goalie, you’re in every game,” Kreutzkamp said. “That’s the rules. All we knew was, coming down the stretch, Griff was playing amazing, standing on his head, blocking everything, and it just gave us so much confidence.”
One of the top high school goalkeepers in the nation, Price also had a hand in the Gators advancing to the championship game with an unlikely goal in the semifinals.
With SHP leading Harvard-Westlake 7-6, the senior produced one of his 12 saves in the semifinal and observed his opposite number moving out of the cage to help defend the Gators’ counterattack. It was an opportunity Price had been watching for the entire game and had even strategized about with Kreutzkamp.
Only, Kreutzkamp had instructed Price to try for a cross-court shot early on, not in the closing minutes. But when Price saw an opening with 3:28 remaining in regulation, and SHP clinging to a one-goal lead, he took it.
“He waited till the wrong moment, and it was such a great shot,” Kreutzkamp said.
Saturday marked the second straight tournament championship for the Gators, who captured the Elite 12 Tournament title Oct. 9 at Harvard-Westlake. Both titles have come since Tsotadze’s return.
The Gators last won the North vs. South Challenge in 2018.
“This was our last huge tournament and I’m super excited to end it on such a high note,” Price said. “We won this tournament when I was actually a freshman, so it’s good to bring some closure from freshman to senior year.”
“My teammates set me up,” Tsotadze said. “I’ve got to give it to them, I have an amazing team beside me. My only job is just to put the ball in the back of the net and work with my teammates, and they definitely set me up to be in a position to score that goal.”