By Josh Thomson
WHITE PLAINS – As he bobbed and weaved behind the net, the final seconds quickly ticking off, Josh Della Puca made no excuses. He was not tired, he told himself, even if Bronxville swarmed him from every side, its sticks flying in desperation.
Two years ago, the same opponent had humbled Della Puca and his team in this very game. Last year’s result, albeit closer, left Pleasantville just as frustrated. That emotion finally gave way to jubilation Thursday night, when one final assist from Della Puca on Brian Reda’s empty-net goal sealed a 9-7 Panthers victory in the Class C championship.
Pleasantville (18-1) earned its first Section 1 title in the program’s 14-year history and advanced to the state quarterfinals on May 30 at Lakeland High School.
“We definitely liked being the underdog,” Della Puca said after a dazzling three-goal, three-assist effort that earned him offensive MVP honors and included his 100th career goal. “We like teams underestimating us. Once we get out to a big lead, they don’t think they can come back. They came back, unfortunately, but we just went on a run and put them away.”
Pleasantville had beat Bronxville before, downing the four-time defending Class C champs 10-8 back on Apr. 15. But the Panthers knew onlookers doubted whether they could win when it counted most and Bronxville’s showed why at times, dominating possession early, then ripping off four straight goals to erase Pleasantville’s early 4-1 lead.
After regaining control, the Panthers were downright stingy in the fourth quarter, especially goalie Oscar Marchi. The senior, nicknamed “Big Cat,” stopped 18 shots total. He also snared a pass through his crease by Bronxville star Henry Grass as the Broncos pressed for the tying goal in the final minute.
Even when Marchi couldn’t stop the Broncos alone, he had help. Grass, a Johns Hopkins commit, who missed the semifinals with food poisoning and needed and IV fluids Wednesday in order to play, was held scoreless. He received the dogged attention of junior longstick Jack Drillock.
Marchi also received a a fortuitous bounce or three from the goal pipes, most notably on a shot by Bronxville’s Gerry Frost with about two minutes left that ricocheted off all three.
“I thought it went in,” said Marchi, a senior who was named defensive MVP. “If it hit all three pipes, then I got lucky. Someone wanted us to win this game. That was a big help.”
The teams had traded goals after Bronxville pushed ahead 5-4 early in the third quarter. Drillock finally sent the Panthers in front 7-6 with 10:23 to play, and Baylor Rosenbaum scored the eventual winner two minutes later off a feed from Della Puca.
Reda finished with three goals for Pleasantville. Ara Atayan and Michael Crawford each had a pair for the Broncos (15-5).