By Mike Dougherty
CORTLANDT Two weeks ago, Lakeland/Panas coach Jim Lindsay was actually thinking about sitting out the Section 1 tournament.
With three wins for the season, the Rebels were hardly a threat.
And then something happened on the way to a long offseason. Lakeland/Panas closed out with wins against Hen Hud, Mahopac and Shenendehowa. The learning curve is no longer an obstacle, and the Rebels are suddenly a player in Class A.
“Now we don’t have to worry about letting anyone down,” junior long pole Joe Scicolone said. “We finally showed up.”
The winning streak remains intact.
Lakeland/Panas opened the Section 1 Class A tournament with a 14-3 victory over Suffern on Thursday at Walter Panas High School. There was little drama beyond the opening minutes for the No. 7 seed, which faces second-seeded Arlington on Saturday.
“We’ve figured out how to play team defense,” Lindsay said. “A lot of the younger guys, especially the short sticks, have progressed and become lacrosse players.”
Ryan Bonifati is the only senior on this roster, so the Rebels (7-10) had to learn some hard lessons along the way. A lineup change helped spur the offense. Brian Prunty was moved into the midfield where he can get a running start and Tommy Maietto was moved to attack where he can keep the ball moving.
Prunty scored twice and now has 100 varsity goals. Maietto had three goals and two assists in just his fifth game up front.
“We just started to click,” he said of the recent success. “We got our guys in the right positions and everybody started to work harder. Today was the first time we played a complete game. I like playing attack, since I get more looks to score goals and to get assists.”
The pace was frenetic for the first three minutes. Jim Flaherty, a freshman midfielder who’s become a faceoff presence for Lakeland/Panas, got loose on a fast break and converted. Steven Vaccari came down seconds later and scored for the 10th-seeded Mounties (5-11).
It wasn’t long before Kevin Prunty, who also had three goals, gave the Rebels a 2-1 edge. Mark Schiliro added to the lead, and Kevin Prunty dunked a rebound to give Lakeland/Panas a 4-1 cushion at the end of the quarter.
“Once they were going, they were really in a rhythm,” Suffern defenseman Harley Valencia-McNally said. “Our defense had to step up. We didn’t really talk enough. They have some good players with Brian Prunty and now a few other guys, and once they started to score, we couldn’t really come back from that.”
The goals that were so hard to come by all season, are now coming from every angle.
Mike Zingaro even got into the act. The standout goalie rumbled up the field with three minutes to go in the third quarter, and when nobody stepped in to stop the advance, he sped up and fired. He gave the Rebels an 11-1 lead. The run finally ended when Christain Hasbrouck set up C.J. Greco in the final minute of the third.