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Albany brothers vie for national lacrosse award

AP - Sports

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Three days after the men's lacrosse national champion is crowned on Memorial Day, Miles and Lyle Thompson of the Albany Great Danes will make their way to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian for a special announcement.

The Tewaaraton (day-wah-ALLAH-DOON) Award, the Heisman Trophy of lacrosse, will be awarded May 29 at the museum in Washington, D.C., and the Thompson brothers are among the five finalists for the men's hardware.

The other three finalists are Duke attackman Jordan Wolf, Loyola defenseman Joe Fletcher, and Princeton midfielder Tom Schreiber.

In the short history of the award - it was first given in 2001 - no Native American has won it, and the Thompsons, born on a Mohawk Indian reservation in northern New York, would relish a breakthrough because it would be something very special.

''We've thought about it,'' Miles said. ''It would be pretty cool to win it. It's something that would make our people proud.''

Tewaaraton is the Mohawk name for their game, and the bronze trophy depicts a single Mohawk player adorned in a simple loincloth and golden eagle feather. It's mounted on a hexagon-shaped slab of black granite, the six-sided base symbolizing the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy - the Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora tribes.

The accomplishments of both brothers, whose season ended Saturday with a 14-13 overtime loss to ACC champion Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals, are significant:

- Miles, a senior, finished the season with 82 goals in 18 games, matching the all-time Division I record for goals in a season set in 1990 by Jon Reese of Yale, also in 18 games. Miles also had 37 assists for 119 points, second all-time for a season to his brother.

- Lyle, a junior and the only player in Division I history with two 100-point seasons, had 51 goals and a record-tying 77 assists for 128 points, a Division I single-season record. Last year, he finished with 113 points (50 goals, 63 assists), one off the previous mark set by Steve Marohl (37 goals, 77 assists) of UMBC in 1992. (Cousin Ty Thompson, a senior, also played a big role in Albany's attack this season with 41 goals and 12 assists but did not make the final list).

''For Lyle or Miles to be the first Native American to win the award, I think it would be pretty special, not only for our program but for them and their family,'' Albany coach Scott Marr said. ''They've just brought such a neat facet to the game. I'd love to see them share it.''

If Fletcher had a vote - 10 coaches comprise the selection panel - he'd probably be hard-pressed not to vote for Lyle. He victimized the imposing defender to break the all-time points record for a season by scoring the first goal in Albany's 13-6 first-round victory over top-ranked Loyola. Lyle bulled his way past Fletcher and another defender before scoring as he fell to the turf.

Lyle later beat a double team that included Fletcher for another of his eye-catching scores. With his back to the goal, Lyle faked a pass across the front of the crease as he maneuvered to the left of the cage, then ducked back and delivered a rising underhanded shot that senior goalie Jack Runkel never saw until it whizzed past his left shoulder, prompting a dumbfounded shrug.

The dynamic Albany duo combined for 15 points in the game, with Miles netting five goals and two assists and Lyle three goals and five assists to propel the Great Danes to the quarterfinals.

In the heartbreaking, season-ending loss to the Irish, Albany squandered a five-goal lead in the fourth quarter. Miles had three goals, Lyle finished with three goals and three assists, and Ty scored twice, his attempt at the winner ricocheting off the Notre Dame goalie's mask with 3 seconds left in regulation.

For Dave White, a Native American star at Brown in the 1970s, seeing one of the Thompsons hoist the trophy would be one shining moment for the Six Nations.

''There are some very good players out there, some worthy candidates,'' said White, who lives on the reservation where the Thompsons were born and was their first high school coach. ''They (the Thompsons) are as good as any players I've ever seen. It would be something very special, not only to our community but to all of the indigenous nations.

''It would be amazing if they could share it because that's what lacrosse is about - that connection between players.''