Delbarton cruises past MKA in TOC
Delbarton's wild comeback win over Don Bosco Prep three nights earlier made for great headlines, future stories to college roommates and grandchildren and most certainly for the building of character.
Not so hot, though, as a reliable game plan.
So, as much as Delbarton's players will want to remember that thrilling victory step by step some other time, they preferred to forget it temporarily and get back to playing a game that's clean, organized and just a tad more predictable.
Matt Killian, Connor Bilby and Sean Donnelly scored two goals apiece and Will Reynolds anchored a smart, stingy defense that sent third-seeded Delbarton, No. 6 in The MSG Varsity Power Rankings, to a 9-2 victory over sixth-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions Saturday night at Basilone Field in Bridgewater.
Delbarton (15-6) advances to the semifinals against second-seeded and No. 3 Summit at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kean University in Union. The Green Wave dropped a 9-4 decision to Summit May 2 in the regular season.
Killian scored twice in the second quarter Saturday when Delbarton pulled away from a 1-1 tie for a 5-2 lead, and Cole Ricciardi, Bilby and Donnelly each delivered a goal in the third to pump the lead to 8-2 against MKA (17-5).
The cool efficiency was a far cry from the frenetic finish against Don Bosco Wednesday in the Non-Public A final, when the Green Wave rallied with four goals in the final 2:00 of regulation and scored in overtime for an 8-7 victory.
"We were blessed to be able to play on that next day, so we took advantage of it," Reynolds said. "Most people would have taken the day off to celebrate such a tremendous win, but we knew we had to take advantage of it and start preparing for our next game. We couldn't just let it fly."
No, Delbarton went right to work on a well-structured strategy that emphasized ball possession and heady, low-risk team defense.
"We really used a team concept," Reynolds said. His role was to cover talented junior attackman Matt Lane, who came in with 38 goals and 61 assists and had been on fire during the state tournament. Lane had one assist to give him 100 points for the season, but his typical playmaking opportunities were greatly reduced by Reynolds.
"I tried to neutralize his dodging, but we also needed off-ball play," he said. "We really focused on communicating this week. We're really hitting our peak right now with communication, trying to limit their on-crease shots as much as possible."
Reynolds, Kohl Geibel, Brendan Huston, Michael Bicknese and the other defenders limited MKA's shots, period. The Cougars had just five shots in the first half and 11 for the game.
That was due greatly to the hard stick-checking and excellent footwork of Reynolds and company, but also in part to the long possessions of the Delbarton offense.
"Coach (Craig) Fleishman told us to settle it down, possess the ball a little bit and take smart shots," Killian said. "We were forcing it before. We had long possessions, but not great shots."
Bilby scored 3:17 into the game to give Delbarton the lead, but Montclair Kimberley answered just 38 seconds later when Patrick Karole stuck an extra-man goal off a feed by Mark Phillips. That was a big boost of confidence for the underdog Cougars, but that also would be their last shot of the quarter.
"We were trying to limit their on-crease shots as much as possible," Reynolds said. "We know we have Johnny (Schisler) in the net, too, so if we can limit their on-crease shots, we know we have a shot against anybody."
Schisler was forced to make only three saves for the game because of his excellent traffic direction and the compliance of his defensive pals. The group felt it hit a bump in development when it fell to Mountain Lakes, 10-8, May 12 in the Morris County Tournament semifinals. It's been much smoother going ever since.
"We're just putting it on ourselves. We’re making ourselves accountable for everything," Reynolds said. "We're showing up, working as hard as we can and just getting after it every day."
Killian opened a 2-1 lead 5:44 into the second quarter lead when he swept through the box and scored on the run despite a slash that jarred his head back and slowed his momentum. Donnelly, Killian and Kevin Lewis followed over the next four minutes for a 5-1 lead.
"Settling it down helped," Killian said. "We're a very talented group, but some of us are trigger happy. It's good to settle the ball down and really think about the shot you're going to take before you just get one off."
Delbarton produced numerous quality shots, but MKA senior goalie Craig Schweitzer turned away 11 of them, including several with a high difficulty factor. He had been outstanding throughout the tournament for the Cougars, making 13 saves Saturday in a 9-7 win over Pingry for the Non-Public B championship.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS