JT Palladino and Owen Malloy each decided to have memorable performances in the biggest game of their lives.
Palladino and Molloy, a pair of attackmen for the Ridge High School boys lacrosse team, combined for six goals and six assists as they lead their team to an 11-3 victory over Rutgers Prep in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions semifinals at Kean University Alumni Stadium on Wednesday night.
After over seven scoreless minutes to begin the game, the teams combined for a flurry of seven goals in the next six minutes as they traded scores back and forth.
Ridge (19-3) got on the scoreboard first when JT Palladino found Alec Burckley cutting the net for a 1-0 lead with 4:41 left in the first period.
But Rutgers Prep (19-3), as it has done all season, struck quickly. Don Stephan won the ensuing faceoff and started the Argonauts in transition. Stephan found Tom Smith who quickly fed Evan Lombardo for a goal just eight seconds later.
It didn’t take long for the Argonauts to strike again.
Off another Stephan win on the draw, this time it was Tom Smith cutting the net and scored off a fed from behind the net from Mitch Hagan for a 2-1 lead with 3:28 left in the first quarter.
The Red Devils responded exactly 20 seconds later, however, and again it was Palladino who was the facilitator. He found Owen Malloy on the left wing, and Malloy ripped one past Prep goalie Christian Klipstein for a 2-2 game.
Again, though, the quick-strike Argos fired back. Stephan won the ensuing faceoff, raced right down the center of the field, and beat Ridge goalie TJ Jones just seven seconds after Malloy’s tally.
Ridge would then settle in, taking over possession and Burckley winning the final four faceoffs of the first half.
This would result in three consecutive goals by the Red Devils, which staked them to a 5-3 lead at the intermission.
Palladino scored off a feed from Eric Scott with 1:37 left in the first quarter, Molloy scored again off a feed from Kevin Quigley with 10:35 left in the second quarter, and Quigley capped the first-half scoring with a rip from a Burckley pass just 1:15 before the break.
At halftime, Ridge was outshooting Rutgers Prep 18-6. Malloy had a pair of goals, Palladino had one goal and two assists, and Quigley had one goal and one assist for the Red Devils. For Prep, Smith had a goal and an assist.
To begin the second half, Palladino continued to play to role of facilitator. With his club an extra man up, Palladino hit Alex Gaydos right in front of the net for a 6-3 game with 8:31 left in the third quarter.
Palladino would continue to pound Rutgers Prep. Just over four minutes later, Burckley found Palladino cutting near the crease and Palladino dove to avoid the crease and put the ball into the net all in one motion for a beautiful goal and a commanding 7-3 lead late in the third quarter.
Palladino’s memorable night would continue. He somehow found Quigley from behind the net on a gorgeous diagonal pass to the left wing that was converted for a goal with 47 seconds left in the third as Ridge to an 8-3 lead into the final quarter.
At that point, the Red Devils had held the Argonauts scoreless for 27:01 and were winning the shot battle 26-7.
Molloy would score off a feed from Scott to open the fourth-quarter scoring with 9:04 to play, then scored his fourth off Palladino’s fourth assist just 2:02 later on a pretty pass, and the Red Devils were in complete control with a 10-3 lead.
As Rutgers Prep remained scoreless for over 36 minutes, Palladino notched his sixth assist of the game when he found Quigley for a goal with 3:25 left in the game and for an 11-3 lead.
Top-seeded Ridge will face second-seeded Don Bosco Prep, which defeated sixth-seeded Ridgewood 11-4 in the early semfinal, in the T of C final at 5 p.m. Saturday again at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium.