In one of the most riveting high school contests in recent memory, it was easy to understand an oft-used sports term: It’s a shame someone had to lose.

In the Flyers Cup Class AAA semifinal Thursday night at Philadelphia’s Flyers Skate Zone, La Salle defeated Holy Ghost Prep, 2-1, in double overtime.

The victory sends the Explorers to the championship, where they will meet private school rival St. Joseph’s Prep. The Hawks reached the final by defeating Malvern Prep, 5-2.

“This is what high school hockey is all about,” said a disappointed but classy HGP coach Gump Whiteside. “We obviously wish we were on the winning end, but this was a great game between two great teams.”

Indeed.

The game-winning goal off the stick of Albert Washko with 5:04 left in the second OT finished off an event that seemed destined to never end. Despite being covered tightly by the Firebirds’ swarming defense, Washko took a pass from Andrew Romano and threaded a tight shot through the pads of outstanding, hard-luck goalie Peyton Jones, who made 44 saves, including one on a penalty shot and another on a breakaway in the final seconds of regulation.

Joined by La Salle’s ecstatic goalie Harrison Feeney, who sped down the ice to join his teammates after stopping 26 shots, Washko was mobbed by his delirious teammates.

La Salle, which last year beat HGP, 5-2, to win its third straight crown and fifth in the past six years, trailed 1-0 after Dylan Cerebe opened the scoring only 2:17 into the first period. Eight minutes later, the Explorers tied the game on a goal by Kevin Charyszyn.

From that point on, it was all goaltending. Both Jones and Feeney were outstanding, making countless clutch stops down the stretch.

“It was a great team win,” Wishko said. “We got great goaltending and defense, and our offense did just enough. Holy Ghost is a great team.”

La Salle improved its record to 18-9-2 while HGP finished 20-3-3.