TOMS RIVER – There was no panic from the No. 1 seed Southern Regional boys lacrosse team as the Rams trailed by three goals in the first quarter in the Shore Conference Tournament Semifinal game at Toms River East High School.
Instead, Southern methodically worked itself back into the game and went on a game-breaking run by scoring eight of the next nine goals to complete an 8-4 victory over No. 4 Manasquan. With that dramatic comeback, Southern advanced to its third straight SCT Final and will challenge No. 2 seed Rumson-Fair Haven at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Monmouth University.
Southern’s Dylan Jinks had two goals and one assist and Chris Smith and Will Johnson each had two goals and Brendan Lefanto made 15 saves.
Meanwhile, Manasquan’s Devan Carroll had two goals and one assist while Chris Klodowski and Pat Felstedt each had one goal and Tom Pollock made 13 saves.
Here are two takeaways from the SCT semifinal between Southern and Manasquan
1. Unblemished but definitely tested is the theme for Southern
The Rams (16-0) are one of only three teams in the state that are undefeated according to Laxpower.com, the website the NJSIAA uses to seed the NJSIAA Tournament. Currently, the Rams are ranked No. 14 in the overall rankings and No. 1 in the potential NJSIAA South Group IV bracket. As always, the Rams did it with defense. Forget letting Manasquan go up 3-0 via goals by Chris Klodowski, Devan Carroll and Pat Felstedt with 11:21, 9:35 and 7:28 left in the first quarter. The Rams got their mojo back with a goal by Will Johnson as time expired in the first quarter to make it 3-1 after 12 minutes of play. From there, Southern scored seven of the next eight goals to take over the game. Only four teams have scored five or more goals on Southern this year and they are Brick, Lacey, Jackson Memorial and Rumson-Fair Haven. Meanwhile, Rumson-Fair Haven is the only team to scored in double figures on Southern.
“It took a little pressure off our shoulders not being down 3-0 after the first quarter,” Southern coach John Pampalone said. “That one goal, at the buzzer, gave us something to build on going into the second quarter. And being able to tie the game in the second quarter, helped us keep going.”
2. The young Warriors came to play in the SCT semifinals
With a heavy underclassmen-filled roster this season, Manasquan has open some eyes with its 13-3 record and making it to the SCT semifinals. And with the Warriors going up 3-0 on Southern in the first quarter, proved they belong on the tournament’s second biggest stage. The loss snapped Manasquan’s nine-game winning streak but based on the team’s youth and the incredible coaching staff that head coach Sean Cunningham has assembled there at Manasquan, the Warriors will be a team to watch for the 2016 season. Another impressive thing about the Warriors 3-0 start in Saturday’s SCT semifinal was that two of those three goals were assisted on precision plays near the net. John Moran assisted on Devan Carroll’s first goal of the game to make it 2-0 with 9:35 left in the first quarter. Then Carroll assisted on Pat Felstedt’s goal with 7:28 left in the first quarter to make it 3-0.
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“We did a nice job jumping out early but they (Southern) are the No. 1 seed for a reason. It was an 8-1 run (by them) to end the game. I thought their goalie made some phenomenal saves to really rob us and kind of zap any chance of momentum that we had,” Manasquan coach Sean Cunningham said. “But I thought on our end that Tom Pollock made some excellent saves as well so it is a tough one to lose especially with the game being tied (4-4) going into the fourth quarter.”
Here are two takeaways from the SCT semifinal between Rumson-Fair Haven and Freehold Township
1. The heart of a champion beats very strong.
Rumson-Fair Haven reminded everyone in the Shore Conference that there is a reason that the Bulldogs (12-5) are the four-time defending SCT champion. Playing probably one of the best defensive games ever in the SCT semifinals story, the Bulldogs recorded their third shutout this season with a 6-0 victory over a very good Freehold Township squad (13-5) in the other SCT semifinal. Bryan Hess, Matt Waters, Robbie Garavente, Lucas Seckler, Charlie Curran and Griffin Schultz each scored a goal and Conor Deverin made 12 saves. The Bulldogs are now in the SCT final for a tournament-record seven straight years.
“Our defense comes all the way back to our goalie Conor Deverin just being loud and having a lot of energy. I just remember being out there on the field and hearing him yell “be more on his hands” when I’m guarding an opposing player,” Rumson-Fair Haven long stick midfielder Jack Moore said. “We knew they (Freehold Township) were extremely successful in transitions and we really wanted to focus on shutting that down as best as we could.”
2. The senior class pushed Freehold Township to great heights this season
Regardless of Saturday’s SCT semifinal loss to Rumson-Fair Haven, the Patriots’ seniors helped Freehold Township have one of the best seasons in school history, thus far. One of those seniors goalie Matt Schroepfer made seven saves against a very powerful Rumson-Fair Haven offense. The Patriots won seven games in a row (first time since 2013) coming into Saturday’s SCT semifinal and in their last game, they beat CBA in the postseason for the first time in school history. Both worthy acheivements to be proud of this season.
Sherlon Christie: email@example.com