SHRUB OAK – The sideline vocabulary was limited to a string of spicey words uttered in complete frustration as weary defenders hustled back to head off an upset.
Things were not going well for Lakeland/Panas.
Finally, a fourth-quarter nudge from a fired-up defense got the No. 1 seed running in the right direction. The Rebels closed with five unanswered goals Saturday, dispatching Scarsdale in a Section 1 Class A semifinal by an 11-7 margin.
The Raiders were clearly not ready to hand in their uniforms.
“It was nerve-racking, but I had faith in the defense,” Lakeland/Panas attackman JoJo Janavey said. “I knew they’d come up with the stops and eventually we’d be able to put the ball in the back of the net.”
While the Rebels played well enough to go ahead 5-3 at the half, they were not up to speed and struggled to solve Scarsdale netminder Stephen Nicholas.
He finished with 17 saves, turning many of them into fast breaks.
“I turned it up on face-offs, hoping to give us even more opportunities because of what he was doing,” Lakeland/Panas defenseman Nick Vazquez said. “Hat’s off to that kid. It was one of the best efforts we’ve seen all year.”
Andrew Bernstein got No. 5 Scarsdale off and running in the second half, picking up a rebound in the opening minute and scoring to make it 5-4. Will Cabrera dodged in to knot the score a short time later. Elliot Graham got the next two goals, putting the Raiders on top 7-5 with 2:05 to go in the third quarter.
“We were shooting, just not at net,” Rebels attackman Kevin Prunty said. “We hit the goalie a lot, too, and he was great. … We finally responded in the fourth like we usually do.”
Kyle Castner stopped the run in the final seconds of the third, then Joe Cortese set up Drew Thompson with 7:53 to play. The pace quickened. Griffin Shiland created the next opportunity, forcing a turnover that he legged up the field and handed off to Janavey, who finished the break to give Lakeland/Panas an 8-7 lead.
The home sideline erupted.
“Griffin has been doing that all season for us,” said Janavey, who finished with a game-high four goals. “The whole defense has been great, just getting us into transition, and we do finish. On the run, we’re unstoppable, I think.”
Vazquez kept winning the most important face-offs of the game.
Janavey scored again with 4:07 to go. Cortese and Sean Makar put the game out of reach with a pair of goals in the next minute.
The Rebels are looking to win a Section 1 title for the second time in three seasons and face defending champion Mamaroneck at 8 p.m. Wednesday at White Plains High School.
“Getting there and winning sophomore year, it was cool, it was exciting, but it wasn’t my team,” Vazquez said. “This is my team, mine and Kevin’s and Joe’s. This one is for us.”
Players of the game: Vazquez and Shiland were the defensive catalysts for the Rebels. They both helped keep the Raiders’ top scoring threat, Cabrera, in check. Vazquez won 12 of 19 face-offs and Shiland created a number of breakaways, forcing turnovers and picking up critical ground balls.
Turning point: Scarsdale had all of the momentum in the final minute of the third following a four-goal outburst that resulted in a 7-5 lead, but Castner ended the run when he got one past Nicholas with 15.6 seconds to go in the quarter. It was the second goal of the game for the senior attackman, who moved back into the starting lineup when Tim Fallo went down with an injury in the quarterfinals.
Stat line: Thompson had two goals and two assists for Lakeland/Panas. … Prunty and Makar each had one goal and two assists. … Kevin Dyckman made 10 saves for the Rebels. … Bernstein, Cabrera and Graham each scored twice for Scarsdale.
Quotable: “I told the goalie, that’s one of the better sectional performances I’ve ever seen,” Rebels coach Jim Linsday said of Nicholas. “Sometimes you get that and you have to play through it.”