By Mike Dougherty
CROSS RIVER — Once the pregame warm-up is complete, Iona Prep takes a knee on the sideline and says a quick prayer.
And the Gaels no doubt rattled off a few more on the run in the final seconds.
John Jay spent the last minute working to manufacture a dramatic comeback, but Iona Prep found a way to hold on to a 9-8 victory. The Indians were not able to get anything past Gaels netminder Steven Bonalle at the end.
They also hit a pipe.
“It was real stressful, actually,” said Iona Prep midfielder Michael McHugh, who finished with three goals. “They’re a good team, so anything can happen when they’re on.”
There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for either side.
John Jay was running an efficient offense at the start, but every first-quarter goal was answered. The biggest issue was finding somebody to slow Gaels faceoff specialist Michael Orefice, who won 14 of 22 draws.
He kept the Indians on defense most of the second quarter, and let Iona Prep move ahead.
“It makes you really value your possessions,” said Indians attackman Ryan Lee, who had a goal and two assists. “Especially after you score, it’s not very likely you’re going to get the ball back right away, so you have to make sure you’re taking smart shots.”
Billy Trizano set up McHugh, who snapped a 4-4 tie with 9:33 to go in the half, and Eric DeSalvo fed Riley Aviles in the last minute, sending the Gaels off with a 6-4 edge.
“Obviously, Michael (Orefice) adds a dimension to our game,” Iona Prep coach Rick Trizano said. “Without it, we’re not the team that we are. Possession is the name of the game in lacrosse, and he obviously gives us that possession nine times out of 10.”
Goals were traded again in the third quarter, but the Gaels were able to play a deliberate game with the lead.
“When we’re ahead, we can play more comfortable, more our game,” McHugh said.
Shawn Smith got John Jay within 8-7 with his third goal of the game, but Jack Korzelius wound up and rattled a shot off Indians goalie Rob Looney with 7:52 to play.
“It was crunch time and we were only up by one,” Korzelius said. “They were in a zone, so we moved the ball around, trying to get the defense to sink, and I found my spot.”
Bonalle came up with two big saves, but wasn’t able to stop Brandon Lee, who scored his third of the game with 4:26 left.
And then Graham Bocklet gave the Indians possession with a huge faceoff win.
Brandon Lee hit the pipe with a little more than a minute to play, and the rebound came out to Jake Chintz, who fired a quick shot that Bonalle deflected.
The ground ball went to John Jay, but the offense stalled. Andrew Duffy let a desperation shot fly with 26 seconds to play and no back-up, so Iona Prep was able to hang on.
“It was absolute insanity out there,” Ryan Lee said. “With the crowd and everyone yelling at once, we couldn’t hear anything from the sideline and we had to rely on ourselves to generate something.”