Heading into the 2012 high school lacrosse season, there was some talk that this would be an off year for West Islip.
On Saturday, the over Ithaca showed the lacrosse world that West Islip remains a high school lacrosse power and one of the top programs in the nation.
The 2012 version of the Lions, while talented, proved Aristotle correct when he said, “the whole is better than the sum of its parts.”
No ? No ? No ? No problem.
Head Coach Scott Craig and Assistant Coach Bill Turri pushed all the right buttons making the proper adjustments on offensive and defense throughout the season. They were also well schooled about their opposition and appeared to know the tendencies of the top players on each team they played.
Given the work of the coaching staff and the players dedication to "team", it was clear that this year’s title was a touch more special for Craig, Turri and his coaches.
As the playoffs began, the Lions' depth also became more evident. While West Islip’s attack duo of Tom Moore (60 goals) and Brendan Smith (55 goals) accounted for 45 percent of the team’s total goals, several players stepped up offensively in the playoffs.
Nick Aponte, the state title game’s MVP with 3 goals and 4 assists, had 20 points in the playoffs, Anthony DeLuca had 22 playoff points and Jon Reese and Paul Riportella seemed to win every faceoff in the team’s six post season games.
Defensively, Anthony Santo was nothing short of amazing as he faced the top offensive talent across Suffolk and New York, and grabbed nearly every groundball that was within reach of his six-foot pole. He led a squad that fed off his energy, leadership and smarts; allowed more than 10 goals only once this past season, and during the playoffs shut down teams accustomed to lighting up a scoreboard. (See .)
And then there was Jack Kelly.
When the shots did get through Kelly stood like a sentry protecting the West Islip cage. He saved his best performance for last with 14 saves in the state title game, earning defensive player of the game honors.
MVP: Anthony Santo. Also the football team’s quarterback, Santo brought that leadership to the lacrosse field, becoming arguably the best defender in the County. If there was a ground ball in his zip code, there was a good chance it would end up in his stick.
Best moment (other than the state title): Jon Resse’s OT winner at . With the Lions trailing by 2 with four minutes left, many Smithtown West supporters were beginning to think this would be the year the Bulls would take down the Lions. But Nick Aponte’s tying goal with 4 seconds left, and Reese’s game winner early in overtime ended those thoughts.
Best individual effort: Brendan Smith’s vs. Whitman, which set a team record. A close second was Aponte’s seven points vs. Ithaca.
He said what?: Following West Islip’s over Middle Country in the season’s first game, Craig told Patch, “Frankly, I thought we didn’t shoot the ball well.” I’m guessing Middle Country’s coach might have had a different opinion.
If I had a nickel every time…: …I heard Jack Kelly call out “Penn State” to his defense. It would have made a nice down payment for a car. Maybe.
Dare to Dream: West Islip and Garden City went into their respective title games ranked third and first respectively in the national Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse High School Top-25 poll. How great would that game be? Sadly, we’ll never know.