Conor Smith provided the answer before his coach could ask the question.
“During the timeout, he looked me right in the eye and I said, “I want the ball,’ ” Smith said of his response to West Islip coach Scott Craig’s stare with 42 seconds left.
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Smith, the Lions’ Penn State-bound senior attack, scored his fifth goal of the game with 17 seconds left to give West Islip a 10-9 comeback victory over Northport Monday in yet another close Suffolk I boys lacrosse game played at Veterans Park in East Northport.
“You’ve got to want the ball in that situation,” said Smith, who used a pick that freed him from Northport’s Michigan-bound defenseman Finn Goonan, dodged to his right, rolled to his left and found the back of the net with a bullet that capped a rally orchestrated by Smith.
The Lions improved to 4-1 while the Tigers fell to 1-4, but the home team led 9-7 on Justin Roderka’s second goal, a low blast off a feed from Ryan Magnuson (one goal, two assists) with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
Smith drew West Islip to within one with a sudden and spectacular play in the final seconds of the period. He took a clearing pass from goalie Brendan Engel, raced across midfield and delivered a long pass to C.J. Scharf, who had gotten behind the defense. Scharf scored his third with one second left.
Northport’s defense, led by Goonan and Rob Dosch, held West Islip scoreless for more than 11 minutes in the final quarter, but the Tigers were unable to pad their lead.
West Islip gained possession with 1:07 left, and Craig called for Smith to set up behind the cage. He used a swim move and a pick to elude Goonan and scored with an overhand shot from the left crease to tie it at 9 with 46 seconds left.
Danny Penny won the ensuing faceoff and Craig again used a timeout and again looked to Smith. “Be calm in that situation. Don’t force it,” Smith said of his mindset. “You’ve got to have confidence in yourself and your teammates.”
Craig said the play call on both the tying and winning goals was for Smith to look for cutters in the slot. “But they covered it both times. I thought they’d double Smitty and he’d have to feed it,” Craig said. “They left him one-on-one both times.”
Smith, who has scored 19 goals with 17 assists this season, made Northport pay. “He’s a great shooter,” Craig said. “Sidearm, underhand, over the top.”
About the only thing Smith did wrong was score too soon. “I told him to shoot with 15 seconds left so we’d have time for a rebound,” Craig said, before adding with a grin: “He shot it a little early.”