HEMPSTEAD – The magic simply disappeared.
A surprising run by Lakeland/Panas came to an end in a NYSPHSAA Class A semifinal when the Rebels fell 16-6 to a lethal Ward Melville team on Wednesday at Hofstra University.
The usual comeback never materialized.
“Sometimes the better team wins,” L/P coach Jim Lindsay said as his team packed up for one final bus ride. “That’s what happened tonight.”
After struggling to field a healthy team last spring, this was unexpected.
“If somebody told me we’d play in the state semis, I don’t know whether I would believe it or not,” Rebels senior Kevin Prunty said. “We gave it everything we had the whole season and that’s how we got here.”
A string of mistakes in the opening half proved costly.
The Patriots took full advantage, building a 4-1 lead in the first eight minutes of play before Lakeland/Panas got organized. Joe Cortese and Prunty scored in the final minute of the first to provide a measure of hope.
It didn’t last.
“That’s easily the best team we saw all season,” Cortese said. “They didn’t make any mistakes. We did. They finished shots. They played fast. They played hard. Props to Ward Melville.”
Before this game, the Rebels were able to neutralize the other team’s primary threats.
“The problem is they have seven or eight or nine standouts,” Lindsay said. “My biggest problem is the lead they built in the first half was due to our carless mistakes. We fixed that in the second half, but they have so much depth. We had a hard time matching up. They have athletes all over the field.”
It was an 8-4 deficit at halftime and quickly got worse.
Jake and Mike Giaquinto were 18-8 on faceoffs and fueled a 7-0 run by Ward Melville that locked up the win.
“The whole season, we knew we were special,” LakelandPanas defenseman Nick Vazquez said. “I know there were people doubting us. We weren’t going to make it to the playoffs. We weren’t going to win a sectional title. We weren’t going to win regional games. We proved a lot of people wrong.”
Player of the game: Dominic Pryor had three goals and three assists to lead the Patriots’ charge. The junior midfielder also picked up six ground balls.
Turning point: Sean Makar scored with 8:09 to go in the third quarter and the Rebels were looking for more when a turnover led to a wild sequence at the other end. Chris Grillo lost the ball and found the ball, then gave Ward Melville a 9-5 lead.
Stat line: Makar and Drew Thompson each scored twice for the Rebels. Kyle Castner and Cortese each finished with a pair of assists. … The Patriots had a 33-13 advantage in ground balls. … Eddie Munoz led Ward Melville with five goals. Andrew Lockhart scored twice.
Quotable: “From the first game of the season, we all knew we had the talent,” Cortese said of the 19-3 season. “We all knew we had the heart. Day in and day out we all worked our butts off and we got things done this year like we wanted to.”