Moorestown's dominance in girls' lacrosse had been for such an extended period, there was no deep thought when naming the No. 1 team in South Jersey, or even the state for the past decade or so.

Before this season, Moorestown had won 10 straight Tournament of Champions titles. Plugging in the Quakers at the No. 1 spot was an effortless task. That's what happens when a team doesn't lose to a fellow New Jersey opponent for 228 straight games.

Of course all streaks eventually end and it happened this year for Moorestown when the Quakers fell to Shawnee, 7-6, in the South Jersey Group 3 final.

Yet it isn't as clear cut that Shawnee is No. 1 simply because the Renegades (20-2) lost to Cherokee in the regular season. Shawnee's only other loss was to Mendham, 12-6, in the state Group 3 final.

Cherokee (20-3) won the South Jersey Group 4 title. The Chiefs' two South Jersey losses were to Seneca on opening day and to Washington Township, a team Cherokee then beat the next two times. Cherokee lost to Ridgewood, 21-8, in the state Group 4 final.

Then there is Moorestown.

What must be noted is that Moorestown was 22-0 before facing Shawnee. The Quakers had played their usual difficult schedule that included several top national caliber teams.

So let the debate begin.

"Yes, Shawnee beat us, but we both have one loss (to South Jersey teams) and they beat us by one goal and we outshot them 30-11," Moorestown coach Deanna Knobloch said in e-mail responses from the coaches.

Knobloch correctly pointed out that Shawnee goalie Alex Zaugra saved the day in one of the great individual efforts of the entire South Jersey sports season.

"Not that I'm taking anything away from them; they won fair and square," Knobloch said.

Knobloch pointed out that in comparative scores with quality teams there was no comparison. For instance she gave Clearview as the example. Moorestown beat Clearview 19-1. Clearview finished No. 5 in the final Inquirer South Jersey rankings.

Shawnee also beat Clearview convincingly the first time they met, 18-7, but won 9-8 over an improved Pioneers team in the rematch.

It's hard to arrive at any true conclusions that come from this argument.

Knobloch realizes that Moorestown did have its destiny in its own hands.

"On the same note, I always say to be the best you have to beat the best and they beat us," she said.

Not surprisingly, Shawnee coach Janae Zechman has a different take on the No. 1 issue.

"I feel Shawnee should be the No. 1 team," she said. "Having played them for the past eight years that I've coached, Moorestown has always been the better team and won each of those years. This year, they were not."

Zechman said she realizes the game could have gone either way, but it went the way of the Renegades.

"The Shawnee girls played 50 solid minutes of lacrosse, didn't give up and truly deserved to win," she said.

And then there is Cherokee which earned a 9-8 regular season win on April 30 over Shawnee.

Cherokee coach Kate Maloney points out the difficulty in making this decision for No. 1. She mentions that all three teams lost their final game and also that Moorestown and Cherokee didn't play, tossing out the head-to-head factor.

Maloney cites Cherokee's late-season improvement and the win over Shawnee as an argument for the Chiefs.

"During the first couple of weeks of the season we could not even consider ourselves a South Jersey No. 1 team," she said. "But as the season progressed, we continued to improve which is why I am so proud of this team. They are No. 1 to me."

All coaches have good points. Other lacrosse observers suggest that if Moorestown played Shawnee 10 times, the Quakers would win at least eight.

That is a bogus argument. This is a ranking based on this year.

One conclusion is that all three are outstanding teams.

That said, only one can be at the top. It seems harsh that the team with the fewest losses (Moorestown), won't be No. 1, but it's hard to go against Shawnee.

It's one thing to beat a team in the regular season. To win head-to-head in a championship setting, when the opponent has gone more than a decade without a loss to a New Jersey team, carries serious weight.

One win may not make a season in many cases, but in this instance it propelled Shawnee to the No. 1 spot in a compelling race among three outstanding teams.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com