MIDDLETOWN — For the second year in a row, the Ithaca High boys lacrosse team fell one win short of claiming its first state title, losing to West Islip, 12-7, Saturday in the Class A championship game at Middletown High.
Ithaca led 2-0 but saw its momentum halted when senior midfielder Connor Manning was called for an illegal stick — forcing a three-minute unreleasable penalty — in the closing seconds of the first period.
The Lions scored twice in that span in the second quarter to tie the game, then took a 4-3 lead at halftime. Ithaca (18-2) scored first in the third period to tie the game at 4 but the Lions went on a 6-0 run to take command.
“You can’t give a good team like that the chances that they got,” Ithaca coach Frank Welch said. “Where we’ve been able to run teams down before today we just didn’t quite seem to have the energy to match their intensity. We came out for a little while in the second half and started to get it going but after the wheels fell off.”
Ithaca lost last year in the state final to Farmingdale in overtime, 12-11. West Islip won its fifth state crown in seven years.
West Islip senior midfielder Nick Aponte, a Penn State commitment, was named the outstanding player of the game after finishing with seven points on three goals and four assists. Tom Moore and Anthony DeLuca also recorded hat tricks.
Senior Jack Kelly was outstanding in goal for the Lions, making 14 saves. West Islip also won 17-of-21 face-offs, which translated into an overwhelming amount of possession for the Lions.
Junior midfielder Doug Biondi led Ithaca with three goals, including the first of the game 2:43 in after muscling his way through three West Islip defenders. The Little Red made it 2-0 in the last minute of the first period when junior Emile Sassone-Lawless found teammate Jaedon Henderson unmarked behind the Lions goal in a man-up situation.
On the ensuing face-off, however, Manning was flagged for an illegal stick, leading to two Lions goals early in the second period to tie the game. West Islip added another two scores before senior Paolo Ciferri fed Biondi to get Ithaca within 4-3 with 1:10 before halftime.
Biondi completed his hat trick following a strong run to the heart of the West Islip defense to make it 4-all with 10:46 remaining in the third period, but the Lions ran off six goals in a 5:57 span to charge ahead. Junior Eli Lasda scored the Little Red’s only other goal of the third period to make it 10-5 with 2:09 on the clock.
West Islip scored the first two goals of the fourth period to squash any hopes of an Ithaca comeback before Sassone-Lawless and Ciferri capped the scoring.
“Tough to lose the last one,” Welch said. “It’s been a real good season for these kids. It’s always good to go out and compete and see where you stand. Today we just didn’t quite finish. I’m still proud as hell of these kids.”
Senior Max Yavitt made seven saves for Ithaca, who had a 30-28 edge in shots. West Islip won the ground ball battle 32-27 and was 2-for-3 in man-up opportunities, while the Little Red were 2-for-7.